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Man Forced To Cook For Soldiers After They Looted His Shop

A witness today recalled how Jean-Pierre Bemba’s soldiers forced his soon to cook for them after they had looted his shop. 

Testifying for the fifth day, the prosecution witness who goes by the pseudonym ‘Witness 42’ described how Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers raided his home in November 2002, raped his ten year old daughter, beat him up, and looted the stall his son runs from the family home’s compound.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Peter Haynes, the witness recounted that when his son tried to resist the repeated looting of his shop, soldiers belonging to Mr. Bemba’s group beat him up. 

“When a soldier came to take goods for the third time, my son pushed him back and said he couldn’t allow him to take the goods without paying,” said the witness. “There were three of them who came to take these articles.” 

The witness stated that while his son asked the soldiers to pay for the goods, one of the soldiers told him, “I am a soldier and you are a civilian, give them to me.” 

“My son reacted and pushed the Banyamulenge. Seeing as he had already knocked down their companion, the other two and the one who was on the ground got up and started to beat my son up,” said the witness. “They started kicking him. One person against three is not a balanced fight. He couldn’t stand them.” 

He said the Congolese soldiers then dragged his son away, accusing him of being one of the rebels who were trying to topple the government of then Central African Republic (CAR) president Ange-Félix Patassé. ‘Witness 42’ said the soldiers took his son to the MLC’s front line where they forced him to prepare meals for them. He did not state in open court how long his son was forced to cook for the MLC fighters. 

Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for failing to control his troops when they were in the CAR to assist Mr. Patassé fight off a coup attempt. Prosecutors at The Hague based court say the MLC fighters committed mass rape, killings, and plunder in various suburbs of the CAR capital Bangui. 

In court today, defense counsel Mr. Haynes asked ‘Witness 42’ whether he saw the MLC soldiers arriving in PK 12, a suburb situated 12 kilometers from Bangui. The witness said he saw the soldiers arrive in the suburb because that is where he lived.

The witness also said he saw rebel troops belonging to the group headed by Francois Bozizé arrive in the area. He said Mr. Bozizé’s troops never committed atrocities against civilians. Mr. Bozizé is the current president of the CAR, having overthrown Mr. Patassé in 2003.

‘Witness 42’ continues testifying tomorrow morning.