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Bangui Judge Recounts Testimony by CAR Generals

The trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba today continued to hear testimony from Pamphile Oradimo, the Senior Investigating Judge of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR), who carried out investigations into the individuals responsible for crimes committed in the country during the 2002-2003 conflict.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Aime Kilolo-Musamba, Mr. Oradimo, who was testifying for the second week, confirmed the statements made to him by senior Central African military officials at the time he carried out the investigations.

In the statements, sections of which Mr. Kilolo-Musamba read out, Mr. Oradimo asked General Ferdinand Bombayake – who headed former president Ange-Félix Patassé’s presidential guard – under which military authorities the different armed forces in the conflict operated.

“The Banyamulenge [Congolese soldiers] were operating under the command of the Assistant Chief of Staff, General Mazzi, and Colonel Lengebe. Only these two gentlemen could provide you with details of the practical measures that had been implemented,” read General Bombayake’s statement.

General Bombayake also stated that forces led by Koumatamadji Martin, alias Abdoulaye Miskine, a Chadian national, “reported directly to the head of state.” Libyan troops fighting alongside Mr. Patassé’s loyalist forces also reported to the head of state, he said. A number of prosecution witnesses have said that Mr. Miskine’s troops committed crimes, including murder, in Bangui, although they have said most of the crimes were committed by Mr. Bemba’s forces.

According to the statement of another military official, the Banyamulenge later came under the direct command of Mr. Bombayake. General Mazzi, then army Chief of Staff, stated that Colonel Lengebe defected to the rebel forces of François Bozizé, and “from that moment onwards, all the [Banyamulenge] operations in Bangui and provinces were organized and led by General Bombayake.”

The statement by Mr. Bombayake’s assistant was also read out in court today. The assistant stated that the coordination of operations between the Banyamulenge and members of Mr. Patassé’s presidential guard was the responsibility of Mr. Bombayake and a “representative of Mr. Bemba.” Mr. Bombayake’s assistant added that this was under the supervision of the Minister of Defense.

Mr. Bemba, as commander in chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), is on trial at the International Criminal Court for failing to stop or punish his soldiers as they allegedly went on rampage in the CAR raping, looting, and murdering civilians. The MLC were in the country to help Mr. Patassé fight off a coup attempt lead by his sacked army chief of staff, Mr. Bozizé. Mr. Bemba has denied all the charges against him, stating that once his troops left Congo, they were no longer under his command.

The defense continues its cross-examination of Mr. Oradimo tomorrow morning.