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Former Judge Describes Life under UPC Rule

Accused militia leader Thomas Lubanga looked on today as a former judge from the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo explained the financial schemes of Lubanga’s Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) from 2003 to 2005.

The witness identified himself as Jacques Kabasele Nzembele, former president of the Tribunal de Grand Instance du Bunia. He told the court that the UPC collected money from shopkeepers “in broad daylight.”

He also said that wealthy traders, such as a family he identified as the Soto family, worked under an arrangement that allowed them to pay lower tariffs on the goods they imported in exchange for donations to the UPC.

Kabasele told the court that he believed the Soto family was closely connected to Lubanga, but he did not know the exact relationship.

Kabasele also benefited from this relationship. While in a UPC jail, Kabasele was visited by a member of the Soto family who told him that when Lubanga returned from Uganda, he would talk to Lubanga to secure Kabasele’s release.

Kabasele was released shortly thereafter, he said, based on direct orders from Lubanga.

Kabasele also suffered under UPC rule, he said.

When asked by defense lawyer Jean-Marie Biju-Duval how he managed to live during this time, Kabasele said, “That is perhaps my secret with God. I might say we begged. We had no support from the central government. I had my cows, but they were decimated and I regret that to this day.”

At the end of questioning, Judge Adrian Fulford offered Kabasele his “profound thanks” for appearing in court.

A new witness will appear in court tomorrow.