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Victim Says Bemba Soldiers Killed His Mother Over Alcohol

Today, a man who had his leg amputated after being shot by rowdy Congolese soldiers, who also shot his mother dead, explained to International Criminal Court (ICC) judges hearing the Jean-Pierre Bemba case the hardships he endures.

“I am handicapped and not recruited for work. I have trouble paying my rent and difficulty maintaining the artificial limb I am wearing,” said Francis Félicien Vouloube De Mbioka.

Mr. Vouloube started addressing the court this morning, becoming the third, and last, victim to present views and concerns in the trial this week via video link from Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Testifying without any protective measures, he was guided through his presentation by his lawyer Assingambi Zarambaud.

He stated that the rebel forces of François Bozizé arrived in Bangui on October 25, 2002, prompting him to flee his bar. Following a radio broadcast by the government of Ange-Félix Patassé informing citizens that the rebels had been repulsed, he returned to the bar four days later.

“I found everything intact. None of my business items had been taken away,” he recalled.

Shortly afterwards, Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops arrived in the neighborhood and set up a base. Five soldiers approached the bar, and one of them shot at him.

“He wanted to kill me, but fortunately the bullet struck my leg,” said Mr. Vouloube. While he hid behind the counter of the bar, the soldiers ransacked the bar and helped themselves to alcohol “singing and shouting with joy.”  When the victim’s mother shouted at the soldiers, reprimanding them for their rowdy behavior, the soldiers shot her dead.

“They shot at her twice,” testified Mr.Vouloube.

He said his mother’s body lay on the ground until the next day. Meanwhile, a good samaritan helped Mr. Vouloube get to hospital where doctors decided that his leg had to be amputated.

Earlier today, Victim a/0394/08 completed addressing the trial, recounting how MLC soldiers ransacked his home. “There was even no door and window left in the house,” he said.

The alleged crimes suffered by Mr. Vouloube, Victim a/0394/08, and Victim a/0542/08, who addressed the trial yesterday, will not form part of the evidence against Mr. Bemba, who is accused of failing to punish or control his rampaging troops deployed in the Central African conflict during 2002 and 2003. The forces were in that country to assist Mr. Patassé who faced a rebellion led by current president Bozizé.

The three victims did not give their statements under oath and were not questioned by the prosecution and the defense. However, earlier in May, two victims testified under oath, with their testimony forming part of the evidence against the accused. They were questioned by the prosecution and the defense.

Before adjourning this afternoon, Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner announced that hearings would resume in “mid-August” when the defense starts presenting its evidence.