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Former Child Soldier: “Shoot or Get Shot”

A former child soldier on Tuesday recounted how he shot people during battles as one of Thomas Lubanga’s militia fighters, telling the court he had to shoot or be shot.

The former soldier said he became dizzy the first time he killed an enemy fighter, and is haunted by memories of his time as a child soldier in the militia of Lubanga’s Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).

“If you didn’t shoot at the enemy, the enemy would fire at you and you would die, and that is what would give you the strength to continue,” he told the court as he described his first battle at a place called Barrier.

Continuing his testimony from last week, the witness-who was given the pseudonym Patrick by court prosecutors-said child soldiers were among those killed and injured in the battles at Barrier and Lipri.

When asked by the defense how he felt the first time that he killed someone, Patrick responded: “Killing someone is not a good thing.

“When I shot and saw I had hit someone, and he fell down, it made me dizzy. Afterwards I came to. Then I said if I run away, I am going be in danger, so I had to continue. But it disturbed me; my mind wasn’t working very well.”

Patrick said he is troubled by his child soldier days.

“I have bad memories of being in (the) UPC and that has caused great delay in the development of my life,” he told the court.

“I am behind in my schooling. My age doesn’t correspond to the (class) in school that I now attend. I also have the impression that my mind doesn’t work as it should.”

Patrick said he enlisted in Lubanga’s army in 2002, but later deserted in July 2003 after taking part in four battles.

Although girls in the military camps also received military training, he did not see them take part in battles. They cooked and slept with the commanders, he said.

Patrick said that the soldier’s role was to “drive out the enemy.”

When asked by Prosecutor Julieta Solano McCausland who the enemy was, Patrick said he was told it was the ethnic Lendu. Lubanga’s militia has been accused of killing civilians belonging to the Lendu and Ngiti ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, the prosecution suffered a setback when Prosecutor Nicole Samson announced that two of its witnesses were no longer interested in giving evidence due to security concerns.

The prosecution also said that it was canceling an additional two witnesses, because previous witnesses had covered the issues on which they were expected to testify.

Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford told prosecutors to insure that the defense had access to these witnesses because the defense had anticipated that their testimony would be part of the trial.