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Voices From The Ground – Voxpops from Kashugho in DRC

EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers: here is another update from the ground from our friends at Interactive Radio for Justice.  This time, their voxpops are from Kashugho in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the second of our regular instalments from IRfJ – I hope you enjoy (you can also listen to the French version in audio here: http://www.irfj.org/2010/03/1-citzens-in-kasugho-are-asked-on-the-street-questions-about-the-icc/)


Host: Dear listeners, hello and welcome to this Vox Pop on international justice. This program is produced by Tayna Radio, in cooperation with Interactive Radio for Justice, and is designed to focus on your concerns on justice. More specifically, Vox Pop programs will focus on the functioning of the International Criminal Court. Some questions were asked to a group of listeners of Tayna Community TV-Radio. Their answers will allow us to know what you understand of international justice. At the same time, it is your opportunity, dear listeners, to share your knowledge with your neighbours. You will notice that we ask experts to intervene and answer your questions in order for them to assist you in better understanding what is happening in those international trials. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, these questions are quite on point. As you know, four Congolese have been arrested and are in The Hague to be held accountable before justice. The North Kivu province, where conflict took place, is not forgotten. Crimes similar to those committed in Ituri continue to be perpetrated in this province. This is why we think that the theme of our Q&A on international justice will probably interest you.

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Journalist: With a view to evaluate the level of knowledge of our listeners concerning specific personalities, such as Thomas Lubanga, Matthieu Ngudjolo, Germain Katanga, Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo, Omar Hassan El-Beshir, we conducted a Q&A with some students of the University of Kasugho, USNDK. Let us now listen to how the first student reacted?

–        1st student: The men you are referring to committed crimes against humanity, which means that they killed, raped and others are even known to have committed cannibalism.

–        2nd student: Concerning these Congolese Patriots, the first thing I can say is that there was violence; they instigated violence against the Congolese population. This is a grave offence that we cannot support.

–        3rd student: I do not really know because I am not really interested in politics.

–        4th student: The main idea is that they are charged for having committed crimes against humanity. In fact, they are [sic] presumed guilty of such offences. I can detail the type of offences they committed. For instance, concerning Thomas Lubanga, he was charged of conscription of minor children in his armed group. Matthieu Ngudjolo, I think he was accused for crimes committed such as the massacre of young boys, burning of a village, and so on, approximately 10 kilometres before Kasenyi, on Lake Albert. This is what he has been charged with. Concerning Jean-Pierre Bemba, it is massacres, theft and looting committed by his troops in Central African Republic.

Journalist: Hello miss. Do you know anything about Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Matthieu Ngudjolo, but also Omar Hassan El Bashir? Do you have any knowledge of these personalities?

–        5th student: Hello sir. Yes, what I know is that these people are Congolese rebels and [sic] Albert is the Sudanese president. These four Congolese are now under arrest at the International Criminal Court, ICC.

–        6th student: What I know, all I know on these guys is that they are all being prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

–        7th student: In reality I have no information on these people.

Journalist: On the same question, Kasugho village was not set aside; we visited its central market with our roaming microphone. It would have been a huge oversight to not inquire as to the level of knowledge of inhabitants on these various personalities. Let us now listen to this operation:

Journalist: Do you know anything about Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Matthieu Ngudjolo, but also Omar Hassan El Bashir? Do you have any idea about these personalities?

–        1st interviewee: These people did not respect human rights and most of them enrolled children in their politico-military movements. For instance, Jean-Pierre Bemba is currently detained, as well as Matthieu Ngudjolo and Germain Katanga. They are all in The Hague.

–        2nd interviewee: I know the persons you cited as politicians and president. In any case, I know them as being politicians.

–        3rd interviewee: I have some idea of who they are. Concerning Germain Katanga, Ngudjolo and Jean-Pierre Bemba, all I know is that they enrolled children in the army, so they worked with children in the army.

Journalist: Hello sir. Do you know anything about Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba but also Matthieu Ngudjolo and or Omar Hassan El Bashir?

–        4th interviewee: I know that they are currently detained at the International Criminal Court. Till now, El Bashir _ El Bashir is wanted, there is an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, but till now he has not been arrested.

–        5th interviewee: These men committed crimes against humanity. This is what they have in common. This is probably the cause of their, huh, of their transfer to The Hague for them to be interviewed.

        6th interviewee: Among these people, I can tell you that I only know one; it is Jean-Pierre Bemba. We heard that he committed cannibalism. Other than that, I do not know anything else.

–        7th interviewee: I only know that these people were arrested and transferred to The Hague because they committed crimes against humanity. But what surprises me most is that we left their partners in crime, if I may call them that, such as other Congolese leaders, who also committed such crimes.

–        8th interviewee: What I know of them is that they are Congolese nationals. You know, to access to power, especially in Congo, you always have to cause a rebellion. My sentiment is that they have a thirst for power.


IRFJ journalist Jeanne Pierre taking question - Kasugho

Journalist: It would also have been a grave omission to forget about the village of Kaheri. We also conducted investigations on the ground. Let us now hear how the listeners of Kaheri reacted to our Vox Pop.

Journalist: Do you know anything about Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Matthieu Ngudjolo but also Omar Hassan El Bashir? Do you know anything about these people?

–        9th interviewee: No, I have no idea about these people.

–        10th interviewee: I know some things about Jean-Pierre Bemba. First of all, I know that Jean-Pierre Bemba was the first vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Transition and, during the elections, he was a candidate to the presidency.

Journalist: After having listened to various comments from the population on the first question of our Vox Pop concerning the level of knowledge of the population on personalities such as Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Matthieu Ngudjolo, Omar Hassan El Bashir, let us now listen to details provided by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo:

–        All these men are suspects of massive crimes. We intervened and issued international arrest warrants against each of these men. Our intervention consists in ensuring that these men are prosecuted and that victims are assisted, protected and respected. 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, 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.

Journalist: As with the first question, we have followed the same path with the second one. However, we are now focusing on the degree of knowledge of our listeners concerning common offences committed by the subject of these investigations. Let us listen to the survey conducted among the students of USNDK .

–        1st student: What they have in common with El Bashir is that they committed war crimes against humanity. This is a current topic. You understand that, given the current state of war in Darfur, there are talks that Sudan will split, because we hear about Sudan north and Sudan south, and everything that is taking place over there are crimes: war crimes against humanity.

Journalist: What is the infraction they have in common?

–        2nd student: They are all accused of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the conscription of young children in the army.

–        3rd student: The offence they have in common is to have instigated violence in the country. That we all agree on. But we demand that they reflect on this matter because every time there is a case at ICC it has to do with Congolese, it concerns Congolese, which is very serious. Here, for instance, in Congo-Brazza _ huh, in Central African Republic _ the president, well former president, Angel Felix Patassé is currently well guarded by his president, so much so that he can no longer be touched by the ICC. So we think that if our president could do the same, that would be good for us.

–        4th student: The common infractions they committed was to commit crimes here and there. This is why some of them now end up in Holland, where they will have to face the consequences of what they did on their path.

–        5th student: Common infractions? These people are accused of crimes against humanity. There were human rights violations, looting, rapes, and others, such as conscripting young children into the army.

Journalist: Concerning this same preoccupation, we also visited Kasugho, where we visited listeners who were willing to express their opinions on the question that leads us today. Let us listen to them:

Journalist: What infraction are they all accused to have committed?

–        1st interviewee: They are accused of having violated human rights and waged a war, which was not justified. Jean-Pierre Bemba was arrested for the acts of his men. His army raped women and stole the property of the population who was peacefully living in CAR. Concerning president El Beshir of Sudan, you know that there is a war in south Sudan, where the Janjaweed are waging war, and the president El Beshir does not respect conventional rules, rules that are recognised around the world on how to conduct hostilities.

–        2nd interviewee: Concerning their common infraction, I can say that it must be the use of young children in their armies. I think this is what they all committed.

–        3rd interviewee: The offence they committed is that they killed and perpetrated crimes against humanity, in short.

–        4th interviewee: What they have in common is that they committed crimes against humanity.

Journalist: What infraction are they all accused of having committed?

–        5th interviewee: All are accused of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as having conscripted young children into the army.

–        6th interviewee: I know that these people you mentioned have all been transferred to The Hague. They have in common that they all committed crimes against humanity.

–        7th interviewee: All these personalities have in common the fact that they committed crimes. These people massacred the population, if I may say so. They committed crimes against the population.

Journalist: As mentioned earlier, we ask experts to bring light to these answers collected among the population. Concerning the answer to the second question, we contacted the same personality that provided us details on the first question, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC.

–          What these people have in common is that they committed massive crimes against people in Darfur, in the DRC, in CAR as well as in northern Uganda. Lubanga, Ngudjolo, Katanga and Bemba have already been arrested by the Court. They are now in The Hague and their trials have started. The trials against Jean-Pierre Bemba will start soon. The charges against Thomas Lubanga concern the use of children as 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.

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 on international justice, which gave you an opportunity to listen to your neighbours’ understanding of this issue. At the same time, you could listen to the explanations provided by relevant authorities concerned with your preoccupation. We thank all listeners who answered to our questions as well as the authorities who accepted to contribute to the production of this program. Let me remind you that this program stemmed from the partnership between Tayna Community TV-Radio and Interactive Radio for Justice. You can listen to it on your radio on the frequencies in Kasugho or in Goma, as well as on the internet at www.irfj.org. This program was presented by Jean-Pierre Kasere Kamatumo and produced by Trésor Issé. You can listen to us again, in Swahili, on Thursday 18 March 2010, from 5:10pm until 5:30pm.