Former social worker Serge Kilo Ngabu said he was asked by a commander in the militia of accused Congolese leader Thomas Lubanga to arrange a meeting to quell ethnic fighting in the troubled Ituri region.
Under cross-examination by Lubanga’s defense counsel Catherine Mabille, the former social worker said he was approached about a meeting to discuss peace because he was an ethnic Lendu.
The request was made by the then UPC defense minister Chief Kahwa Mandro, with the intention of bringing an end to the conflict between the ethnic Lendu and the Hema, represented by the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC.
At the time, Ngabu worked for an aid group called SOS Grand Lacs, which provided counseling and reintegration services to former child soldiers.
Ngabu told the court that he had been arrested by UPC soldiers in 2002 in Bunia because he was Lendu and considered an enemy of the UPC.
After his release, the man known as Chief Kahwa asked him to facilitate a peace meeting between Lendu and Hema leaders, but the meeting never happened.
“Soon after we heard there were problems between him (Kahwa) and his superiors, and he had to resign,” Ngabu explained. He did not describe what the problems were.
Prosecutors, however, used the opportunity to underscore Lubanga’s leadership role in the UPC, when Ngabu told prosecutor Julieta Solano McCausland that Kahwa’s superior at the time was Lubanga.
Later in the day, prosecutors came under criticism when what was intended to be closed testimony by a new witness was broadcast publicly for a short time.
When a former junior commander in the UPC began his testimony, the court proceedings were abruptly stopped, prompting presiding Judge Adrian Fulford to advise prosecutors to keep proceedings in public as much as possible.
He suggested that prosecutors address a range of issues and lines of questioning in private sessions, and then tackle others in public, rather than switching back and forth for brief intervals during the daily proceedings.
Moving in and out of closed sessions has been done because some testimony is considered sensitive, and because of it witnesses are concerned about their security should the source of certain information be known.
Fulford acknowledged that while judges intervened as much as they can regarding sensitive testimony, prosecutors were more aware of the details and evidence that witnesses were likely to provide.
Fulford advised prosecutors to work out strategies for questioning witnesses in public and private sessions so that adequate protection for witnesses is assured.
The witness whose testimony was abruptly closed will appear again on Thursday following testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday from expert witnesses.