A witness today provided the names and ranks of war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s senior officers who were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during the 2002-2003 conflict. Mr. Bemba is on trial for having failed to rein in his soldiers, who allegedly brutalized civilians.
On the third day of his testimony, ‘Witness 178’ gave the names of 20 soldiers, including three colonels, three majors, four captains, and six lieutenants. They were under the overall command of General Mustafa Mukiza, he said. He said the colonels were Loro, Gabriel, and Luvunangiza, without giving their other names.
The witness was questioned by victims’ lawyers Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson and Assingambi Zarambaud, as well as by defense counsel Aime Kilolo-Musamba. He stated that wherever the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) had a base, they installed radio transmitters that enabled them to communicate with their headquarters in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The witness also said that the soldiers in the CAR routinely received instructions from Mr. Bemba. General Mustafa would then rally his officers to determine a strategy for an offensive. Mr. Zarambaud asked whether any Central African soldiers were involved in these planning meetings. The witness replied that only the MLC participated in these meetings. According to the witness, only Mr. Bemba had the power to issue orders to the Congolese fighters.
Mr. Bemba has denied that he had effective command of his troops, who were in the CAR to help then president Ange-Félix Patassé beat back a coup attempt. He has said Mr. Patassé had command over the troops and that it is he who should have been tried by the International Criminal Court.
Today’s witness said although General Mukiza regularly briefed Mr. Patassé about the progress of their operations against the insurgents, he did not take any orders from the then head of state.
The defense continues its cross-examination of ‘Witness 178’ on Monday.