A witness today recounted how his ten year old daughter was raped by two members of Congolese war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s militia. ‘Witness 42,’ who was testifying for the second day, stated that he did not take his daughter to see a doctor following the attack. “What good would it have done taking her to hospital?” he wondered.
He added, however, that even if he had wanted to take her to a doctor, he would not have managed to. “During these events, the hospitals were closed,” said the witness, who added, “In fact, I had no more money.”
The witness testified anonymously and said his daughter was treated with traditional medicine. “There are some medicinal plants that you can boil and then the girl sits down into that potion to cure herself,” he said. The witness said this concoction was normally applied to women after they give birth in order to stop the bleeding.
‘Witness 42’ said he did not witness the rape of his daughter as the Congolese soldiers had taken her away from where he was. While the two soldiers were raping the young girl, another group of soldiers was flogging her father, claiming his son supported the rebels who were attempting to overthrow the country’s president, Ange-Félix Patassé. Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops were in the Central African Republic (CAR) to help Mr. Patassé beat off the coup attempt.
The witness also said that the MLC used child soldiers during their intervention in the CAR in 2002. He described how he saw “many” minors among the Congolese troops who entered the CAR capital Bangui on November 7, 2002.
“When they arrived on the 7th…we heard about it and came to the road,” narrated the witness. “It was laughable because you had children who were carrying weapons whose weight meant that these weapons were dragged along the ground.”
The witness also spoke about the ill-fitting clothes which the young fighters wore. “They were wearing clothes that were ridiculous, and it was laughable. Everybody who was by the roadside was laughing. Who were these people wearing clothes that don’t fit?”
The witness said he could not tell how old the young fighters were but added that he later learned that they were “child soldiers.”
‘Witness 42’ also stated that MLC soldiers raped and looted because Mr. Bemba was not paying them. “Bemba organized war crimes in CAR, and he did not pay the soldiers [so] the soldiers lived off the population and raped women and he is the one to blame,” said the witness.
He estimated that as many as 1,000 MLC troops were camped at the Bangui suburb of PK 12. He said the soldiers forcefully occupied several houses belonging to civilians.
Prosecuting lawyer Hesham Mourad asked ‘Witness 42’ how people whose houses were taken over by the MLC felt.
The witness responded, “The Banyamulenge [MLC soldiers] were like a cat. If a cat comes into a house, do you think a mouse is happy to share a house with the cat?”
‘Witness 42’ will continue his testimony on Monday.