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Commander Yuda Planned the Attack on Bogoro, Witnesses Claim

This report covers the period of May 30 to June 10, 2011 in the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Germain Katanga, alleged commander of the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI) militia, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, alleged former leader of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) militia, are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in 2003 in Bogoro, a village in the Ituri Province of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The defense for Katanga is nearing the conclusion of its case. During this reporting period, four witnesses were called to testify:

  • Mr. Jeannot Malivo Kagaba (Witness 129)
  • Mr. Christian Mbodjima Mbaraza (Witness 160)
  • Mr. David Adirodu Acheli (Witness 001)
  • Witness 148

Their testimony is summarized below. These witnesses generally testified about the relationship between various Ngiti militia commanders, claiming that there was a great deal of mistrust and rivalry between them. These witnesses also discussed the attack on Bogoro, saying that it was Commander Yuda who planned the attack—not Katanga. According to these witnesses’ testimony, Katanga was not in Bogoro on the day of the attack.

It is not anticipated that the Katanga defense will call many more witnesses. After the Katanga defense team concludes calling witnesses, the defense for Ngudjolo will begin calling witnesses.

Mr. Jeannot Malivo Kagaba (witness 129)

Malivo, a Lendu Bindi (Ngiti), took the stand to testify for the defense of Germain Katanga. He currently serves as a senior advisor to the senior minister of finance and economy in Kisangani. He testified that he has never served in any militia group or received military training.

During direct examination, Malivo testified about living in Bunia and the surrounding area during the conflict. He said that he lived in Aveba from December 2002 until May 2003.

Malivo said that he met Germain Katanga when he arrived in Aveba in January 2003. When he met Katanga, Malivo had been told Katanga was a colonel, he said.

Malivo also testified that he had visited the military camp in Aveba, called the BCA, which was run by someone named Mr. Mbadu.

The witness described that while he was in Bunia, before the September 5, 2002 attack on Nyankunde, he could see heavy mortar fire in Songolo, another village nearby. He said he saw huts on fire and later heard that Colonel Kandro’s (an Ngiti military leader) military camp had been attacked and that Kandro had fled. Malivo testified that he had heard the UPC, which was based in Nyankunde, was responsible for the attack.

Malivo testified that subsequently, Kandro and his men attacked Nyankunde on September 5, 2002. Kandro was killed shortly thereafter, the witness said, by the men of another colonel, Cobra Matata. Another leader called Mr. Yuda took over Kandro’s men, who were called the garnison, the witness claimed. The men were later relocated to Kagaba, Malivo said.

The witness was in Aveba during the February 24, 2003 attack on Bogoro. He testified that he heard heavy mortar fire starting at 5:00 a.m., and could hear gunfire when he went outside at 6:00 a.m. He said that he rushed to the health center to use the white phonie and tried, without success, to phone local villages to find out what was going on. Later that morning, Malivo said, they were told by the telephone operator from Mandre, Macheche, that Bogoro had been attacked by the garnison based in Kagaba. The garnison was accompanied by the Nombe and Lakpa, he said. 

He said that Katanga also came to the health center that day, dressed in civilian clothing, to find out what was happening. Commander Yuda was brought to the Aveba health center with wounds, and Katanga rushed over to see what had happened to Yuda.

Katanga’s defense counsel asked the witness about another combatant named Kisoro. Malivo said that Kisoro had his own troops and was based in Kaswara, near Aveba. Kisoro frightened the people who were in Aveba, including the witness, because people from Aveba would be threatened when passing through Kaswara, Malivo said. According to Malivo, there was an atmosphere of distrust between the commanders, who did not want to be under the leadership of others. Malivo said that Kisoro did not like Katanga, and he had attacked Aveba twice.

On cross-examination, Malivo testified that he had read the FRPI manifesto, and while he was in Aveba, he had learned that it was a resistance movement created to bring together the Ngiti combatants.

He also claimed that Katanga replaced Kandro after Kandro’s death but in name only. Malivo said that Katanga had no authority over Commander Yuda, who controlled Kandro’s soldiers in the field.

Malivo testified that he had seen Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui in Kinshasa. Malivo said he had heard that Ngudjolo was a nurse in the general hospital in Bunia and that he later became a soldier in Zumbe before joining the FARDC (the armed forces of the DRC).

During his cross-examination, Malivo admitted that he had family members who had been in militia groups. One of these was Philemon Manono Anyodi, who served as the private secretary to Germain Katanga. Manono has been detained in the Makala prison with others from Ituri since March 2005, the witness acknowledged. Malivo admitted that Manono was arrested with Katanga, and Malivo has been in contact with Manono since he was detained. The witness also admitted that Manono calls him from time to time from the prison by mobile phone.

The prosecution accused the witness of having spoken about the case with Manono. Malivo said that they had discussed many things, but he could not recall discussing the case. He admitted that Manono would give him information about Katanga and Katanga’s situation in The Hague. He also acknowledged that he got information about the case from the internet but denied that he obtained information on the case while in Kinshasa.

The prosecution also alleged that the witness was lying to the court in order to protect Katanga by testifying that Katanga came to the Aveba health center to use the white phonie. The witness confirmed that there was also a white phonie at the BCA camp. The prosecution asked why Katanga had gone to the health center and not the BCA camp to use the white phonie. The witness said he did not know why but stood by his previous testimony.

Mr. Christian Mbodjima Mbaraza (witness 160)

Mbodjima, an Ngiti from Aveba, is the private secretary of the provincial minister of finance and the economy in the DRC.

Mbodjima testified that he first met Katanga in Aveba in 1998 while they were both students. They lived very close to each other and met often, he said.

The witness described the general state of insecurity in the region around 2001, when he was in his final year of secondary school in Gety. He testified that there was fighting between Ugandan soldiers and combatants led by Colonel Cobra, Colonel Kandro, Kisoro, and others.

Mbodjima described how, in August 2002, he met commanders and combatants on a trip from Bunia to Aveba. He saw Colonel Kandro, Colonel Cobra, Move, and Katanga. Katanga had a weapon with him at the time, Mbodjima said, but he did not know what Katanga was doing.

Like the previous witness, Mbodjima also testified about the attack on Nyankunde on September 5, 2002, and described it as a revenge attack by Colonel Kandro for the attack on Songolo. He said that the two commanders from Aveba, Nono and Abala, were both killed during the attack on Nyankunde. Like Malivo, Mbodjima said that Kandro was later killed by Colonel Cobra.

Before the attack on Bogoro, Mbodjima explained, he would travel to Aveba from Gety. During those visits, he would meet Katanga, who had a weapon and was surrounded by bodyguards, the witness testified. However, Mbodjima claimed, he did not know Katanga’s military function or his specific rank.

After the attack on Bogoro, the witness met Katanga several times in Aveba, he said. He said he still did not know what position Katanga had in the militia, however.

“I have never taken the courage to ask him what position he held within that militia,” Mbodjima said. “He himself never told me.”

On cross-examination, the witness testified that all Ngiti fighters were together at the time of the attack on Nyankunde. He said he did not know where Katanga was on the day of that attack.

Mbodjima also confirmed that when he saw Katanga in 2002 on the witness’ trip from Bunia to Aveba, Katanga was carrying a weapon, but the witness did not know whether Katanga was a commander at that time.

The witness first heard of the FRPI in 2004, and it was only then that he learned that Katanga was the president of the FRPI, he said.

Mr. David Adirodu Acheli (Witness 001)

Adirodu testified that he fled Bunia in September 2002, and went to Zumbe. After two weeks in Zumbe, he said he left with a group of civilians and APC (Congolese People’s Army) soldiers under the command of Bahati Dezumbe. He went to Nyabiri, where he joined the Ituri militia, he said.

He testified that he demobilized in 2005. He described the structure of the demobilization process, explaining that there were children as well as adults who demobilized. He said that he worked as a liaison officer in the demobilization process.

The witness testified about the process of demobilizing children and the role of the various NGOs involved. When a child arrived, he would find the witness and the officials of CONADAR (DRC’s National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion) before going to present himself to Terre des Enfants, Adirodu said. He claimed the child then would be questioned about where he came from, which group he came from, and the name of the leader of his group. CONADER acted as witnesses to the questions the witness asked, he said.

After the first series of questions, if the child could not give the name of the leader, the witness said he would send the child home. Adirodu also said he would send home those children who said they were just there to collect the benefits. Eligible children would go through further processing with Terre des Enfants, he said. Eventually, the witness was told by one of the demobilization authorities to let other children demobilize, and let the children from the community, including children of militia soldiers, benefit from the demobilization site.

Adirodu also testified about his role in the militia. He said that he was secretary to a Commander Movi (phonetic) and later moved to Aveba.

Regarding the fighting in Bogoro, the witness said that a delegation arrived in Aveba from Beni to see Katanga. They said they wanted to attack Bogoro and asked Katanga if he could help them. According to Adirodu, Katanga replied that Bogoro was not a zone under his control; he suggested that they go see Commander Yuda because Bogoro was part of his territory. These people saw Yuda and planned the attack on Bogoro with Yuda, the witness testified. Adirodu said that he heard that many soldiers were killed during the fighting, and that Yuda was there and had been injured. He also said that Commander Bahati participated in the attack.

On cross-examination, the prosecution asked the witness about his relationship with members of Katanga’s immediate family and other defense witnesses and asked whether the witness had spoken to them about the trial. Adirodu said that he indeed spoken with them on occasion but not about the trial. The witness denied having spoken about the case with anyone.

Adirodu also said that he heard that Kandro led the Ngiti in the battle on Nyankunde. The witness said he did not know whether there were Lendu fighters in this battle because he was not there.

Kandro was killed by Cobra Matata after the September 2002 attack on Nyankunde, Adirodu said. Katanga was supposed to take over from Kandro, but he did not become the leader of the Ngiti fighters until after the attack on Bogoro, the witness claimed.

The prosecution also asked the witness about his knowledge of Ngudjolo’s military positions. Adirodu said that he did not know whether Ngudjolo was a commander in Zumbe, as he thought that Commander Bahati was the leader of the combatants there. He also said that in March 2003, after the attack on Bogoro, he heard that Ngudjolo was the leader of the Lendu combatants and was the Chief-of-Staff of the FNI/FRPI.

Adirodu was also questioned by the legal representative for child soldier victims. He asked Adirodu how he estimated the age of children who came to the demobilization center. The witness said, “When you look at a boy, you see his physical condition and his behavior, and on that basis you can estimate his age.”

Adirodu also discussed how the demobilization process at first did not have many children participants. He could not say why it was initially unsuccessful and why child soldiers did not come to demobilize. He claimed that it was only after they decided to open up the process to other children from homes where there were fighters that more children came.

“I know that it was said that the sites were only going to receive children who had been in armed groups, and I think that’s the reason why there weren’t enough children,” he said. “In the end, I didn’t make a distinction between the children who had been in the camp and others who had been traumatized.”

Witness 148

This witness testified with protective measures, including a pseudonym and voice and facial distortion. Much of his testimony was given in closed session. He testified that he participated in a battle in Tchey under Commander Kandro, when Tchey was attacked by Ugandans. The next battle involved an attempt to “liberate” the area of Aveba, where the Ugandans and others were looting the drugs from the hospital.

The witness said he later went with Kandro to Songolo, and he described other battles against the Ugandans that took place in the area.

When Lopondo was chased out of Bunia, the witness testified that he was in Songolo. The witness saw Lopondo when he arrived in Songolo and said that they used the witness’ bicycle to transport Lopondo around the village. After Lopondo left, the witness said, Songolo was attacked by Ugandans, the Bira, and the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots, a Hema militia allegedly led by Thomas Lubanga, who also faces charges at the ICC).

After the attack on Songolo, the witness said, the combatants prepared for an attack on Nyankunde. He claimed that the commanders in charge of the Nyankunde attack were Kandro, Cobra Matata, and an APC soldier, Fauste.

Cobra Matata later killed Kandro, the witness testified, and then attacked Kandro’s fighters based in Avenuma. According to the witness, Kandro’s soldiers fled to Kagaba, where they remained under the command of Commander Yuda.

The witness also testified that he participated in the attack on Bogoro and explained that the attack was carried out by a number of groups working together. Yuda ordered the attack to be planned, the witness said. Although he admitted that civilians were killed during the attack, he said that many of them were armed. He denied seeing child soldiers during the attack or women being raped. He said he did not see Katanga on the day of the Bogoro attack.

The witness also testified that Katanga was appointed as the head of the FRPI, but the witness could not remember when.

The defense counsel for Ngudjolo also questioned the witness on the Bogoro attack. The witness reiterated that it was Yuda who planned the attack, together with his deputy Androso Zaba Dark. Dark remained as commander in Bogoro after the attack.

During cross-examination, the witness testified that Kandro was the overall commander of the Ngiti combatants.

His cross-examination continued and will be reported on in the next report.