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Katanga-Ngudjolo Chronicle #12: Witness 250 concludes his testimony after four weeks

Please find Katanga and Ngudjolo Chronicle #12, 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.

In his fourth week giving evidence, Witness 250 has been questioned by the defence teams of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo. For three days, Mr. David Hooper, Lead Counsel for Germain Katanga, sought clarification on certain divergences between Witness 250´s testimony and his previous statements to the Office of the Prosecutor in 2006.  The lawyer explored those areas in which the witness´s words seemed to be contradictory: the military missions in which the witness participated, the names and ranks of the commanders involved, how munitions were acquired and distributed amongst the fighters, and the specific dates when the operations took place.

Witness 250, a former soldier of the Lendu Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) allegedly led by Mathieu Ngudjolo, explained to the Court how the attack on Bogoro was planned and executed. According to his testimony, the FNI delegation met Germain Katanga’s FRPI in Aveba in January 2003. The aim was to eliminate the presence of the UPC-Hema in the village. A man called Bahati of Zumbe, reportedly the head of the mission, was the last to return from Aveba with the plan. Before the attack, the plan was shared with the Lendu fighters. Witness 250 learnt about the plan during a parade. “Bahati gave us the plan at the collectivité level,” he said.

The witness also explained to the judges how the troops leading the attack on Bogoro were organised and positioned. Geographic references, names of the commanders in charge of the troops and the military strategy developed were the Mr. Hooper’s subject questions.

Witness 250 also said that both defendants, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, were present in Bogoro after the attack was launched. Once the troops were reassembled, the Accused addressed the fighters.

The Defence of Mathieu Ngudjolo conducted a substantial part of its cross-examination in private session in order to guarantee the security of the protected witness. Witness 250 testified under protective measures, so his voice and image were distorted. Mr. Fofé, Lead Counsel of the Ngudjolo team, raised doubts about the credibility of Witness 250. “From 1999 to 2004 you were attending school,” said Mr. Fofé. “That means you were never a soldier. You must tell the truth to the judges.” The Defence´s position is firm: Witness 250 was not in Zumbe from 1999 to 2004 because he was attending school somewhere else and he did not take part in the battle of Bogoro on the 24th of February 2003.

Just as he had done in his opening statement, the Defence Counsel for Mathieu Ngudjolo stressed the participation of foreign powers in the conflict, and the right of the Lendu community to self-defence. “You testified the Ugandans came and bombed [land mines] the Ezekere groupement to wipe out the APC soldiers [of Mbusa Nyamwisi and Governor Lopondo] who took refuge there,” said Mr. Fofé. “They wore uniforms with the UPDF insignia. But I don’t know with who they collaborated. They were the Ugandan army,” said the witness. According to Witness 250, amongst the forces who attacked the groupement there was also the UPC of Thomas Lubanga. “So the population had to defend themselves, right?” asks Mr. Fofé. “They had to save themselves. The people who fled tried to survive,” replies the witness.

The evidence of Witness 250 has been volatile. On several occasions, the proceedings were suspended to assist the witness psychologically. Exhausted and upset, Witness 250 “feels that the contract with him has not [been] respected”.  Witness 250 did not expect his testimony to last for such a long time – more than four weeks.  Today he will return home, with the thanks of the Chamber.