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Katanga Defense Calls 10th Witness

This summary includes events that took place from May 16-May 27, 2011.

During this reporting period, four additional witnesses gave testimony in defense of Germain Katanga. Katanga and co-defendant Mathieu Ngudjolo Chiu are on trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Both defendants deny all charges against them.

By the end of this reporting period, the defense for Katanga had called 10 witnesses. The first group of witnesses included three leaders from the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI) (allegedly led by Ngudjolo) and the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) (allegedly led by Katanga). These leaders have been detained in the DRC for their alleged involvement in the killing of UN peacekeepers.

These witnesses testified about the creation of these groups and the attack on Bogoro, a village in Ituri, in February 2003. This attack forms the basis of the allegations against the accused. These witnesses also focused on the responsibility of the DRC government for the attack and the government’s role in the conflict in Ituri.

They have applied for asylum in the Netherlands and requested that the ICC turn them over to the Dutch authorities, rather than return them to detention in the DRC. The trial chamber has not yet issued a decision on this issue.

Other defense witnesses have focused their testimony on Katanga’s family and Katanga’s role in the militia from the village of Aveba. Much of the testimony of these witnesses was provided in closed session, to protect the identity of these witnesses. These witnesses include four that testified during this reporting period:

  • Witness 501, Mr. Victor Rumbale (Pastor Vicky)
  • Witness 147, Mr. Bachweki Backama Nathaniel
  • Witness 146, Mr. Obiya
  • Witness 261 (testified with protective measures)

Their testimony is discussed below.

The defense for Katanga also announced that it will not call four of its proposed witnesses. It is not certain whether Katanga will testify in his own defense.

Witness 501, Mr. Victor Rumbale

Rumbale (also known as Pastor Vicki) is an Evangelical pastor and a musician. He is Ngiti. Rumbale’s wife and Katanga’s wife Denise are cousins. The pastor knows Katanga’s family, and the pastor testified that he used to see Katanga at his church.

Rumbale testified that he moved to Aveba with his family in 2001, and shortly thereafter Ugandans attacked the village. The witness claimed that during the attack, his house and the Aveba health centers were burnt down and people were killed. He said he fled with his family, abandoning the town to live in the bush for a month.

At the time of the attacks, “there was a self-defense movement which was set up for the purpose of preventing the Ugandans from exterminating the population,” Rumbale said.

During cross-examination, the prosecution asked the witness about his relationship with prior witness Alain Metu, Rumbale’s uncle. Rumbale testified that he was regularly in contact with Metu, and that they were transferred to The Hague together.

Rumbale also testified that someone the court has referred to by the pseudonym “Jack” came to Aveba in 2003 and stayed with Rumbale for a year. During the time Jack stayed with Rumbale, Jack was a student and not a member of a militia, the witness testified.

On cross-examination, the witness stated that during the battle in Nyakunde in 2002, the Ngiti fighters were led by Commander Kandro. The prosecution asked whether Katanga became the leader of the Ngiti fighters after Kandro’s death. Rumbale responded that as far as he knew, Katanga did not become the leader until long afterwards, because there were several groups of fighters in the area.

The witness also testified that he knew several members of Katanga’s family, including his father and brothers. The prosecution asked whether this meant that Rumbale discussed with them how Katanga was doing. The witness denied that he had received news of Katanga from Katanga’s family. The prosecution likely pursued this line of questioning to impeach Rumbale’s testimony by showing his bias.

Rumbale denied knowing whether there were any child soldiers in the militia in Ituri during the conflict.

Mirroring the testimony of the first defense witness, Katanga’s brother, Rumbale testified that children in the area registered at demobilization centers in order to receive clothes and other aid.

“As far as I know, the children joined these programs solely in order to receive food and clothes and other goods, because we had just been in a conflict and the children very often were lacking very basic elements,” he said.

Witness 147, Mr. Bachweki Mbakama Nathanaël

Mbakama is a witness for both Katanga and Ngudjolo. He in an Ngiti. The witness works for the Kilo-Moto gold mining company. Much of this witness’ testimony was given in closed session. Some brief excerpts are described below.

The witness testified that he and was living at Dele Farm, which is owned by Kilo-Moto, when Molondo Lopondo, then-governor, was chased out of Bunia in 2002. Mbakama testified that he fled with his family to Zumbe mountain when Lopondo was run out of Bunia. He fled because was afraid of members of the Union des Patriotes Congolais, (UPC, Thomas Lubanga’s militia) were trying to kill him because of his ethnicity, he said.

While in Zumbe, Mbakama claimed that he and his family suffered from living in very difficult circumstances. They would have to flee and seek refuge in the bush when the UPC attacked the area.

After spending three months in Zumbe, the witness said, he moved to Aveba. His family moved in December 2002, but he said he had to stay behind to tend to his herd of goats and joined his family in Aveba in May 2003.

The witness testified that while he was in Zumbe and when he arrived in Aveba, none of his seven children were in the militia.

Mbakama described an incident involving a man he called George, who would visit his house while the witness was at work. Mbakama said that when he asked his children about the visits they would not tell him why George was there.

He described a situation where a child of his fled to Kisangani without his permission, but later returned and asked the witness and his wife to travel to Kisangani. The witness claimed, however, that the child refused to tell the witness why he and his wife were needed in Kisangani. Additional details about this were given during closed session.

Upon resuming open session, the witness testified that in Kisangani, he told “the white people there” that a person called Pierre was 15 years old, even though Pierre was a little older. Pierre and Mbakama returned to Dele together, before Pierre disappeared without telling the witness. Mbakama claimed that he has had not had contact with Pierre since then and does not know anything about him.

During cross-examination, the witness testified that while he did not personally know Katanga, he had known that Katanga was the leader of the Aveba militia. He claimed he had heard Ngudjolo’s name, but he did not know what position Ngudjolo held.

The witness testified during cross-examination that he had never seen any child soldiers and could not confirm whether there was a child soldier demobilization center in Aveba.

Witness 146, Mr. Obiya

Much of this testimony was given during closed session. Obiya testified on cross-examination that Congolese People’s Army (APC) soldiers were present in Aveba while he was living there. He said that although soldiers from a militia lived nearby, the soldiers in Aveba itself were APC. The witness claimed that he did not know who the leader of the Aveba militia was and never saw Katanga while the witness lived in Aveba. Obiya said that while he had heard about Ngudjolo, he did not know what position he held.

Witness 261

Witness 261 testified with protective measures, and much of her testimony was given in closed session.

The witness testified that she knew Katanga when he was a student, before he joined the militia. She later moved to Aveba, where she learned that Katanga was the leader of the militia there. Witness 261 maintained that Katanga was only the leader of the Aveba militia and did not command any other Ngiti forces.

She said that she had visited the Bureau of the Aveba Combatants (BCA) camp in Aveba.

Katanga was on good terms with the civilians in Aveba, Witness 261 testified. She also claimed that he did not have problems with Hema refugees who came to Aveba, fleeing Bunia because of fighting between the UPC and Lendu/Ngiti soldiers.

She had not seen nor heard of any sexual slavery of women in Aveba, she said. Witness 261 claimed that Katanga did not tolerate men forcing their girlfriends to marry them if the women refused.

Moreover, she denied ever seeing children carrying weapons at the BCA camp when she visited. She said that she demobilized by handing over someone else’s gun in order to get US$410. This comports with the testimony of other defense witnesses, who have said that children “demobilized” as soldiers in order to receive benefits such as clothing, food and money.

Witness 261 said that she heard that Commander Yuda led the attack on Bogoro, and had seen him around the time of the attack. After he was shot in the arm, she said, Yuda came to the health center in Aveba for treatment.

She also claimed that she had seen Yuda when a plane arrived in Aveba from Beni carrying APC soldiers and arms and ammunition supplies. These soldiers went with Yuda to Kagaba, and some of them were involved in the Bogoro attack, she said.

On cross-examination, the witness testified that when she arrived in Aveba in September 2002, just after the attack on Naykunde, Katanga was living at his father’s house and was protected by soldiers and escorts.

According to Witness 261, after Kandro died, Katanga took over as General of the militia. However, she claimed that this was in title only and that he did not in fact take on the role of General in practice.

She testified that she once saw Katanga return from a trip to Beni in an airplane carrying boxes of weapons. She did not know whether Katanga had gone to Bogoro on the day of the attack, as she was not in the camp that day, she said.

The prosecution also asked her about child soldiers in Ituri. The witness claimed that while she had seen children wearing military uniforms when she visited the BCA camp, she assumed this was because the children had no other clothes. She could not confirm whether there were child soldiers in Ituri.

When questioned on this issue by the legal representative for child soldiers, the witness explained that children she saw at the BCA camp did not have families and were being cared for by people in the camp. She did not know whether the children she saw in the camp later demobilized as child soldiers.

Witness 261 also said that she demobilized twice—the first time she as a child and the second as an adult, with two different organizations. At the demobilization center, she only had to state her name, her identity, that she had been a child soldier, the name of her commander and where she had been stationed or served, she said. She testified that there was no follow up after receiving money from the demobilization organization.

Testimony from the final Katanga defense witnesses will be included in the next reporting period.