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Voices from the Ground: Goma, DRC

NOTE FROM EDITORS: Dear Readers, our colleagues at Interactive Radio for Justice compiled a series of vox-pop interviews with people in the Democratic Republic of Congo — who come from the communities most affected by the crimes being prosecuted at the ICC — to find out what they think about the trials at the Court, including Thomas Lubanga’s.  Below is an English transcript of the interviews in the Congolese town of Goma, relevant photos to the vox-pops, and a link to the radio version (in French) on the IRfJ site of the radio broadcast of these interviews here: http://www.irfj.org/category/drc/kivus-goma-voxpop/. I hope you enjoy reading or listening to these perspectives from the ground about the ICC’s work. This is the first of six installments. Tracey


Host: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Colombe Broadcast Radio, in cooperation with Interactive Radio for Justice, is now presenting you with a new program, Vox Pop, where you can express your opinions and views on international justice. In this program, we are roaming around Goma city with our microphone in order to inform and enlighten you. It is also your opportunity to find out about various opinions on international justice. As you know, some Congolese citizens are currently detained at the International Criminal Court, and others are still wanted. It is imperative and it is your right to understand the rationale behind these arrests and the progress of their trials at the Court.

For the purpose of this program, we have selected two questions presented by the community and presented them to the International Criminal Court to get answers. The two questions we selected for the first program are the following:

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 Journalist: Hello everyone, we are at the Instigo roundabout and continue our program Vox Pop, with our roaming microphone, going through the main points of interest and busy areas of Goma city. Hello sir, have you already heard of Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo, Thomas Lubanga, Matthieu Ngudjolo, or Omar El-Beshir?

 –        1st interviewee: Hello. Yes I have already heard about them. In any case I know of them.

–        2nd interviewee: I am not a politician (chuckles). I do not know how to express what I want to say because I am not so interested in politics. I only know of Bemba but do not know what to say about it.

–        3rd interviewee: I only heard that he was in prison, I do not know more, I do not know what he did.

–        4th interviewee: I know that he is being detained, really. He wanted to become president, but when he was [sic] taken hostage but we do not know where he is, what he did. We do not know. I went to a seminar where the crimes he did were explained to us, the fact that he conscripted minor children to serve as soldiers. I don’t mean for the crimes committed by Bemba, but concerning Thomas Lubanga I did participate in a seminar.

 –        5th interviewee: I do not know the others.

–        6th interviewee: Indeed, I have heard of these people.

Journalist: We are now at the university campus of Goma. Hello sirs. Have you already heard about Thomas Lubanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Matthieu Ngudjolo?

 –        7th interviewee: Hello Mr. journalist. Yes I have already heard of these people.

–        8th interviewee: Indeed, I heard of these personalities.

–        9th interviewee: As far as know, Jean-Pierre Bemba was vice-president of the DRC and was arrested and transferred to The Hague a while ago. Thomas Lubanga is also a former warlord who operated, huh, mostly in North Katanga. He is also detained in The Hague. Germain Katanga also, and Matthieu Ngudjolo, are also former warlords who have been transferred to The Hague.

Journalist: Ladies and gentlemen, we are continuing our program Vox Pop. The first question, which, let me remind you, consists in knowing how many people have already heard of Thomas Lubanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo or Omar El Beshir.

–        10th interviewee: Yes I have heard of them. Concerning Thomas Lubanga, I know that he is being prosecuted for crimes committed in Ituri. Concerning Jean-Pierre Bemba, I think he is prosecuted for crimes essentially committed in Central African Republic.

–        11th interviewee: Of all these names, I only know that of Thomas Lubanga.

–        12th interviewee: I know Jean-Pierre, but not the others.

–        13th interviewee: Yes, I have already heard of Thomas Lubanga and El Bashir.

–        14th interviewee: Yes, we have heard a lot about these people. Jean-Pierre Bemba, Thomas Lubanga. First of all, these people are Congolese. Concerning [sic] Thomas El Beshir, I know that he is a president. He is the Sudanese president. From what we hear, he is also a criminal because he continues to wage war in his country and the victims are his people, his citizens.

Journalist: In order to get further details and clarifications to enlighten you, we have had the opportunity to talk with Luis Moreno Ocampo who was willing to give us additional details in spite of his very busy schedule. Let’s listen to him:

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo

–        The people accused by the International Criminal Court are: the President Omar El Beshir, as the head of state of Sudan, who attacked billions of his own citizens. Thomas Lubanga, the leader of the Hema community in Ituri and president of the Congolese Patriotic Union, or UPC. Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo, leaders of different groups: the FNI and the FRPI. And Jean-Pierre Bemba, president of the MLC, Movement for the Liberation of Congo and former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is being prosecuted for systematic and widespread rapes committed in Central African Republic. There is also Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA group, or Lord’s Resistance Army. Lubanga, Ngudjolo, Katanga and Bemba have already been arrested by the Court and there are here in The Hague. Their trials have started and the one against Jean-Pierre Bemba will start soon. The charges against Thomas Lubanga concern the use of child soldiers to fight, kill and rape. Matthieu Ngudjolo and Germain Katanga are accused of having destroyed Bogoro village, and of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murders, rapes and looting. Jean-Pierre Bemba is accused of several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially rape and looting. President Beshir is on the run. The ICC is accusing him of crimes against humanity and war crimes and we are currently discussing the need to include genocide charges.

Journalist: Ladies and gentlemen, our Vox Pop program continues. After the Instigo roundabout in Goma we reached the Belegel roundabout. You have just heard the response by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, to the first question. We will now attempt to find out what inhabitants of Goma think about the second question.

According to you, what do they have in common?

–        1st interviewee: I think that they are opponents.

 –        2nd interviewee: I think that they all committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is why they are currently in The Hague.

–        3rd interviewee: I think that Thomas Lubanga is being prosecuted in relation to a Uruguayan contingent, or something like that, a contingent of Blue Helmets who were on mission in Congo. Concerning Jean-Pierre Bemba, I think he is being prosecuted for crimes essentially committed in Central African Republic.

–        4th interviewee: What they have in common? I don’t know.

–        5th interviewee: They committed a crime.

–        6th interviewee: I do not know but I do consider Jean-Pierre Bemba first and foremost as a dictator. It is a man who wants to impose [his rule], and do everything by force. I do not know if this is the case for all the others. I only know about Jean-Pierre Bemba.

 –        7th interviewee: Yes, we hear that they have committed a lot of crimes against humanity.

 –        8th interviewee: Huh, these people are criminals, huh, they deserve to be punished.

–        9th interviewee: These people are heroes.

 –        10th interviewee: They are opponents. I like Jean-Pierre Bemba for what he did because, first of all, he was first vice-president of the DRC. Second, he was also national deputy. So, I do not know how he ended up being arrested whereas he wasn’t the main person committing crimes.

Journalist: Ladies and gentlemen, Vox Pop continues its path and, for the second question of Vox Pop, we will ask other Goma inhabitants what they think Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Omar El Beshir, Matthieu Ngudjolo and Thomas Lubanga have in common.

 –          11th interviewee: I do not know, because politics does not interest me. I am less interested.

–          12th interviewee: What I know concerning Jean-Pierre Bemba, we have heard it everywhere across our country. He was a great rebel leader; he participated in the elections and of course failed. He targeted high institutions, notably the Supreme Court of Justice. Even Germain Katanga, who committed crimes in Katan- huh, in Orientale Province, was arrested by the Supreme Court of International Justice in The Hague. This is what I have to say with regard to these men.

–          13th interviewee: What these men have in common? They are politicians who deserve punishment because of what they did.

           14th interviewee: They have in common that they committed crimes against humanity, such as forced conscription of children into armed forces.

 –          15th interviewee: All I know about Thomas Lubanga is that he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is all I know.

 –          16th interviewee: I am not a politician but I know that Thomas Lubanga is a Congolese, like me, and he was arrested one day. I know that much.

–          17th interviewee: I’d say that they are genocidaire.

–          18th interviewee: What they have in common is that they are all arrested. I know that they committed crimes and are at the International Criminal Court, awaiting their judgment. These are personalities who committed crimes, and acts that the International Criminal Court considered to be grave.

–          19th interviewee: I know that they are all arrested and at the International Criminal Court, the ICC. They have been accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity, or something to that effect.

–        20th interviewee: I think that they have a dark story. We lived with these people here in Congo. First of all, I think they are criminals, I can call them criminals because they committed many crimes in Congo and everyone knows them, even new-borns know what these people did, which crimes they committed. They raped women, they killed many people here in Congo. They caused a lot of damage.

–        21st interviewee: It is because the conscripted young boys to serve as soldiers.

Journalist: For this second question, we will continue with Luis Moreno Ocampo, who is the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court:

 –        All of them are suspects of massive international crimes against civilians, in Darfur, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Central African Republic and in northern Uganda. In addition to these five arrest warrants that I just listed, there are eight other arrest warrants that have been issued by the Court. These are: Bosco Ntaganda, for crimes committed in Ituri; Joseph Kony and four other leaders of the LRA for the massive crimes committed in Uganda. In Darfur, in addition to our warrant against president El Beshir, we are prosecuting the former minister Ahmed Harun and the leader of the Janjaweed militia, Ali Kushayb, who are also accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The international community mandated us to render justice to those who are not protected, justice for those who cannot present their testimonies in other courts and tribunals, justice for victims of crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, justice for the victims of crimes in the Central African Republic, justice for the victims in Darfur and for the victims of northern Uganda. Our message is that we are listening to victims, we work for victims. Criminals, and all those who think they are above the law, will have to be held accountable. There will be justice for those victims.

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Host: It was Vox Pop, a program of Colombe Radio, in cooperation with Interactive Radio for Justice. Thank you for your reactions as well as to all the personalities of the International Criminal Court who were willing to bring their contribution to enlighten you on matters of international justice. You can follow this program on the internet at www.irfj.org and can also send us your views and suggestions by email at rtccolombe@yahoo.fr. You can also send us your views by phone at 081 019 92 76 or 085 31 11 945.