Cette page est disponible en français également. Voir ici →

Katanga-Ngudjolo Chronicle #10: The attack against Bogoro was conceived in Abeva

Please find Katanga and Ngudjolo Chronicle #10, which was originally published on the Aegis Trust website.  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The third prosecution witness continues his testimony. The former soldier of the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) has already told the court that the Lendu militia was a hierarchical group commanded by Mathieu Ngudgolo. According to him, the FNI was organised into camps within the Ezekere groupement – Zumbe camp served as Ngudjolo’s command centre.

When he was in the ranks of the FNI, Witness 250 took part in the February 2003 attack against Bogoro village. The assault was allegedly planned in Aveba, 50 km south of Bunia and the headquarters of the FPRI.  Katanga reportedly met an FNI delegation there in January 2003.  Witness 250 was also there. At that time he was Commander Boba Boba’s bodyguard. Boba Boba attended the meeting on behalf of Ngudjolo, so Witness 250’s testimony should give some insight into key elements of the Prosecution’s case:  the planning of the attack, the attack itself and the militia’s command structure.

According to the witness´s testimony, the meeting in Aveba took place with the aim of finding a ‘solution’ to the Bogoro ‘problem.’ The presence of the UPC/Hema in the village was regarded as an obstacle to communication and free passage between the Lendu north of Bogoro and the Ngiti south of the town. They needed “to liberate themselves from slavery” and to “chase out the people who occupied Bogoro” to “cut off the serpent’s head.” After meeting Germain Katanga in Aveba, the delegation returned to Zumbe with their “solution” – a plan detailing how to carry out an attack on Bogoro. Germain Katanga would provide all the ammunition that the Lendu fighters needed.

According to different witness statements, letters exist that explain the details of the plan. There is one in particular that seems to corroborate Witness 250´s story. Mr. MacDonald announces he wants to show a document to the witness. It is a document dated 4 January 2003, written and signed by two members of the Lendu/FNI: Bukpa KALONGO and Martin BANGA, both part of the delegation that was sent to Aveba. Under the title “Demande d’aide,” the letter was addressed to “Operateur OUDO” in Olongba, and copied to Colonel COBRA MATATA, a close collaborator of Germain Katanga.

“And the stamp between the names, can you recognize it?” asks Mr. MacdDonald. The seal contains the following words: Bureau d´Etat Major Tatsi/Zumbe. “Yes, I do recognise it,” answers the witness. It is the stamp of the FRPI. Tatsi and Zumbe are a collectivité and a village respectively in the Ezekere groupement. In the letter, the FNI delegates are informing Mr. OUDO that they’ve been in Aveba for 3 weeks and are planning to send a small delegation to Olongba to procure soap. According to Witness 250, the FNI and FRPI were indistinguishable at the time and it was only after the Bogoro battle that different names were used.

“Mr. Witness, have you seen this document before appearing in this court? asks Mr. MacDonald. “I know this letter existed but it was in possession of high ranking officers,” replies the witness.

Katanga’s defence team intervenes unexpectedly. Mr. Hopper is concerned that the witness has queried the authenticity of the document. But he has misunderstood the translation. “Is this letter genuine?” asks Mr. Hooper. “I don´t know if the document is original. I think this is something that should be addressed.” Mr MacDonald doesn´t hide his irritation. He stands up to address the Chamber but changes his mind and sits down again, nervously.

Witness 250 speaks in Swahili. His testimony is translated into French first and then into English. The court officers check the transcripts to try and work out what Mr. Hooper is referring to. Only a few people in the room are listening to the Swahili booth, Mr. Germain Katanga amongst them. Everyone else is lost in translation.

After the midmorning session, the Prosecution makes a last strategic move. Mr. MacDonald presents a new document: an oral decision taken by the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Based on this decision, the Prosecution asks the Chamber for its permission to refer back to previous witness statements in order to refresh his memory. In ordinary circumstances, the witness´s testimony must be based on what he is able to recall. But Mr. MacDonald wants to explore certain areas in more detail.   He wants to know more about the hatred songs based on ethnicity sung by the fighters;how the “solution” was found in Aveba; how ammunitions were obtained and distributed; and how child soldiers came to be amongst the FNI and FRPI ranks. The Prosecution must prove that Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo intentionally agreed on a plan to “wipe out” Bogoro and that they were directly responsibility for its implementation. That includes issuing orders, obtaining and distributing weapons and ammunitions and encouraging the soldiers under their command.