Today, a prosecution witness recounted how she and her 11 year old daughter were raped by soldiers belonging to the group led by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba. The witness also said her husband was killed by a force led by a Central African army commander known as Miskine, who she said was accompanied by Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops.
The witness told the court her husband was killed at the cattle market in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui by Colonel Abdoulaye Miskine. Mr. Miskine, also known as Martin Koumtamadji, was allegedly a Chadian national who the CAR’s former president Ange-Félix Patassé had entrusted with the command of a special unit outside the army that fought coup attempts by sacked army chief François Bozizé during 2002 and 2003.
‘Witness 79’ testified with protective measures, including the use of a pseudonym as well as voice and face distortion, to keep her identity secret. Under questioning by prosecution lawyer Horejah Bala-Gaye, she said, “The person who killed my husband was Miskine and the Banyamulenge [MLC soldiers] who were accompanying him.” She testified that besides her husband, many other people were killed at the cattle market.
Two days after her husband was killed, armed MLC soldiers broke into her house at night. “There were five of them. They pulled me from the bed and threw me down to the ground, and then they undressed me. One of them first slept with me, the other had his gun pointed at my temple,” stated the witness.
She added, “The first one, after he had slept with me, got up and then a second man took his place. Two others entered the bedroom where one of my daughters was sleeping. She was 11 years [of age] and she was raped.”
The witness stated that after the soldiers assaulted her and her daughter, they made off with her property, including a refrigerator, a television set, shoes, clothes, and suitcases.
‘Witness 79’said she did not receive any support from her community following the assault. She explained that due to fear of stigmatization, she did not tell anyone what had happened to her daughter.
“I spoke to nobody,” said the witness. “Within the Muslims [community], such news when an underage daughter is deflowered, it runs counter to our customs. If I were to tell people what happened, then it would be very difficult for that girl to find a husband. That is why I preferred to keep the news of her rape secret.”
Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly failing to control his MLC fighters who pillaged, raped, and murdered Central African civilians between October 2002 and March 2003. He has denied all five charges against him, claiming he was not in control of the fighters once they entered CAR territory, where they were sent to assist Mr. Patasséfight back a coup attempt. He claims it was Mr. Patassé who was in control of those troops.
The witness said two days after she was raped, she learned that her mother and elder sister had also been raped by Mr. Bemba’s troops. She said as a result of this attack, her mother became “rather disorderly in her behavior” and fled to neighboring Chad.
Her brother, whose belongings were among those looted from her house on the night of her rape “became very angry” and left home. He has never been heard from or seen ever since.
“I live in a state of worry,” said the witness. “I am troubled. I know I am not right in my mind. I know I have psychological problems.”
‘Witness 79’ continues giving evidence tomorrow.