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Mathieu Ngudjolo Begins Defense Case

This report covers testimony that arose during the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui before the International Criminal Court (ICC) from August 15 – 26, 2011.

The ICC trial against Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui resumed on August 15, 2011 with the opening of the Ngudjolo defense case. During this reporting period, which spans from August 15 – 26, four witnesses were called by the Ngudjolo defense.

These witnesses testified about the situation in the Bedu-Ezekele groupement in the Ituri region of the DRC, including Zumbe, a primarily Lendu village that served as the headquarters of the Lendu militia. Zumbe and the surrounding area was attacked several times from 2001 to 2003, the time period that was the focus of the testimony. In particular, the witnesses testified about the situation in Kambutso, a village near Zumbe, where Ndgudjolo is from and where he worked as a nurse. Many of the witness testified about Ngudjolo’s role as a nurse at the Kambutso health center and some gave evidence that he was working at the health center during the Bogoro attack, which is the subject of the charges faced by Katanga and Ngudjolo. The testimony is described in more detail below.

Witness 44 (testified with protective measures)

The first witness for the Ngudjolo defense testified that Ngudjolo had been training him in nursing in Bunia and Kambutso from 2001 to 2003. In 2002, he said, he moved from Bunia to Kambutso, a village in the Bedu-Ezekele groupement, because of fighting in the area.

The witness testified that there were many attacks on the groupement in 2002 and 2003, although he did not know which groups led the attacks. He claimed that the attackers came from Bogoro, Bunia, Kasenyi, and Mandro. During these attacks, he said, people from the groupement were killed, property was looted and buildings were burned down. Witness 44 said that the people from the groupement defended themselves with machetes, spears and arrows.

Importantly for the Ngudjolo defense, Witness 44 claimed that on the morning of February 24, 2003, when the village of Bogoro was attacked, he was working in the Kambutso health center. He said he could hear gunfire from Bogoro early that morning, around 4:00 a.m. He claims that at around 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., he passed his duties to Ngudjolo. He testified that Ngudjolo would have been working at the health center during the day, but that since he had gone home to rest, he could not say exactly what Ngudjolo did that day.

The witness testified that he did not know whether Ngudjolo had been involved in other activities apart from his work at the hospital but said that as far as he knew, there was no military organization in Kambutso at the time and Ngudjolo was not involved in any military activity.

On cross-examination, Witness 44 claimed that he had not known that Ngudjolo was a member of the Congolese army (the Forces Armées Zaïroises) under President Mobutu Sese Seko. He also maintained his testimony that to his knowledge Ngudjolo was not involved in military activity in 2002 and 2003. Witness 44 said that he did not know precisely when Ngudjolo started military activities. All he knew, he said, was that in 2003 Ngudjolo left Kambutso for Bunia and never came back.

However, later in his testimony the witness admitted that in 2002 and 2003, Ngudjolo was a combatant—but not a soldier. The witness explained that “combatants” fought in self-defense, while soldiers operated under the command of someone else.

Witness 44 testified that he had no knowledge of organized armed groups such as the UPC (the Union of Congolese Patriots, led by Thomas Lubanga, who is also on trial before the ICC) or the attack on Nyankunde in September 2002. He claimed that although he was aware of tensions and fights between the Hema and Lendu, he did not recall specific events.

Witness 55 (testified with protective measures)

Witness 55 testified that he had worked with Ngudjolo in the Kambutso health center between 2002 and 2003. They had fled Bunia together when the hostilities began, he said. After arriving in Zumbe, the witness said that Ngudjolo invited him to participate in a meeting in September, 2002. At the meeting, attended by local chiefs, it was decided to create a new health center in Kambutso, the witness testified. He claimed that Ngudjolo appointed him as the chairman of the new health center.

He also told the judges that Zumbe was attacked several times in 2002 and 2003. He claimed that the attacks were launched by the UPC and UPDF, who killed people and burnt down houses. In response to these attacks, the witness said, the Zumbe residents defended themselves with basic weapons. He also testified about an attack on Zumbe made by Bosco Ntaganda (currently the subject of an ICC arrest warrant for war crimes). Witness 55 also testified about the existence of the local “Structure Committee,” a local organizational committee, which included administrative, self-defense, and health committees, amongst others.

Like the previous witness, this witness also presented important evidence about the whereabouts of Ngudjolo on February 24, 2003. Witness 55 claimed that he was working at the Kambutso health center early that morning. Ngudjolo was the first person he saw arrive to work, he said. The witness said he left the health center from around 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to see what was happening in Bogoro. When he returned to the health center, he said, Ngudjolo was still there. He denied that Ngudjolo took part in the attack on Bogoro.

Witness 55 testified that the APC (the Congolese People’s Army, the armed forces of the RCD-KML) was present in Zumbe between 2002 and 2003. However, the FNI was not present in Bedu-Ezekele then, he said. Witness 55 denied that Ngudjolo was the commander of the FNI.

On cross-examination, the witness testified that there were no self-defense groups in the groupement.

Witness 66 (testified with protective measures)

Witness 66 testified that he worked for the Chief of the Bedu-Ezekele groupement, Ngabu Emmanuel, also called Chief Manu, between August 2002 and March 2003. Like previous witnesses, Witness 66 denied that Ngudjolo had participated in the attack on Bogoro. He claimed that the FNI was not active in the groupement from 2002 to 2003 and that Ngudjolo was a nurse, not the commander of the FNI.

He discussed the creation of a self-defense committee. The witness testified that the committee was made up of young people from the area, and was solely engaged in self-defense, not in carrying out attacks. He said that Ngudjolo was a part of the health committee.

Witness 66 testified that there were military camps in the groupement, but he explained that they were not organized. Like Witness 44, Witness 66 made a distinction between combatants and soldiers. He claimed that there were no child soldiers in the area but that the young people were considered “combatants.”

The witness, like the previous witness, said that the APC was in Zumbe between 2002 and 2003. He explained that they had tried to travel to North Kivu by crossing through Bogoro but were twice deterred by the UPC and UPDF. The witness testified that the APC then decided to travel by way of Songolo.

On cross-examination, the witness testified that he was not aware of the February 24 attack on Bogoro but had been aware of an attack on Bogoro launched by the APC.

He also told the prosecution that the UPDF brought arms to Zumbe after the March 2003 attack on the UPC in Bunia. Witness 66 said that the UPDF had asked the Lendus from Zumbe to participate in that attack. The witness claimed that many people from Zumbe, including Ngudjolo, participated in the attack on Bunia. However, he claimed that Jaques Mbanga led the combatants from the groupement in that attack, not Ngudjolo.

Witness 66 was also questioned by the Legal Representative for Victims representing child soldiers. The witness testified that although “young people” from Zumbe had been involved in the attack on Bunia, no children participated in the battle. He drew a distinction between “children,” those from zero to 18 years old, and “young people,” who were older than 18. Witness 66 also testified that the self-defence committee was created only in order to protect Zumbe.

Witness 88 – Emmanuel Ngabu Mandro, also known as Chief Manu

Chief Manu was born in Nyankunde and is from the Bedu‐Ezekele groupement, also known as Zumbe. He was chief of that zone from 2001 until 2005, when he handed the chiefdom over to Lokana Safari. His village of Ezekele was 10 km from Zumbe, he said.

The witness described how he met the Prosecutor of the ICC, Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, when Moreno-Ocampo traveled to the area in July 2009. During this ceremonial meeting, the witness told the Prosecutor that Ngudjolo was not in Bogoro when the massacre occurred. Others at the meeting also came forward and told the Prosecutor that Ngudjolo did not go to Bogoro, Chief Manu testified. The witness said that he introduced the Prosecutor the Ngudjolo’s mother and that the Prosecutor promised Ngudjolo’s mother that he would pass on her greetings to Ngudjolo, who was in the ICC detention center at the time.

The witness also testified that his area was surrounded by enemies, including the Hema, UPDF, and the APC. They could not travel about freely, Chief Manu said. “We were surrounded by the UPC and the UPDF at the level of Mandro … in the north. We were surrounded by UPC and UPDF elements in Bunia as well. We were faced with the same situation in Nyakeru; surrounded, in other words, by the same elements. Ditto in Bogoro, in Kasenyi and in Tchomia. As a result of that situation, we had no way of moving around,” he said.

After the fighting broke out in the region, Chief Manu explained, people who lived in and around Bunia started to flee up into the hills, to Zumbe. There was considerable death and destruction in Zumbe during the war, the witness testified.

One night, soldiers from the UPC and UPCF spent the night in Zumbe, Chief Manu said. Although the witness said he was not there, he said that village wise men told him that the soldiers fought in the area in the morning, stayed the night, and left the next day. He claimed that the UPC soldiers set land-mines during the night, which caused villagers to lose their arms and legs. Chief Manu said that they found over 500 landmines planted in the area.

Chief Manu’s testimony continued into the following week, which will be discussed in the next report.