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Patassé Cited in MLC Command

The command structure of Congolese troops deployed in a 2002-2003 armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has continued to dominate the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Congolese vice president whose fighters are accused of committing mass rapes, killings, and plunder.

A defense witness, who commenced testimony today, told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the late CAR president Ange-Félix Patassé was part of the command structure governing the conduct of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops. His orders were allegedly channeled through the leader of the presidential guard, Ferdinand Bombayake.

‘Witness D04-51’ said General Bombayake’s orders to the foreign troops were issued to the Congolese contingent’s head, Colonel Mustafa Mukiza, and were made in consultation with President Patassé. The witness said Mr. Patassé followed all the MLC’s field operations through a communications system set up at his residence.

“General Bombayake was running the show,” said the witness, who described the General as Mr. Patassé’s “right hand man.”

The witness gave most of his evidence in closed session. In order to conceal his identity, his voice and image were distorted during the brief public broadcasts of his testimony.

Faced with a rebellion in October 2002, Mr. Patassé called in the support of Mr. Bemba’s troops, who at the time were a rebel force in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ICC prosecutors charge that the Congolese troops were uncontrolled and brutalized civilians in the conflict country.

Mr. Bemba denies responsibility for the crimes the troops purportedly committed, arguing that once they were deployed in the CAR they fell under the command of Mr. Patassé.

Meanwhile, ‘Witness D04-51’ also stated that Central African soldiers led the Congolese troops in operations against the insurgents. “They followed us. They didn’t know the field. It is our soldiers who showed them the way.”

He said the coordination of movement and operations between the MLC and their Central African counterparts was done through radio. “We used the same radio frequency,” the witness said.

The trial continues tomorrow morning with the cross-examination of ‘Witness D04-51’ by the prosecution.

One Comment

  1. The bill on constitutional reivison passed with 334 votes, 1 against and 2 abstentions. The opposition decided to vacate the chamber and not participate in the debate, after Francois Mwamba the MLC house keeper (since the arrest of Bemba he is conducting current affairs as dictated by Bemba from inside Schveningen’s cells) presented a procedural motion. This explains why the proposal went through without any resistance. However, some MPs from the majority have seen in Francois Mwamba the MLC a time waster. Some are even calling him Lukong by the name of the Cameroon goal keeper who became expert in time wasting to buy his team some time. They say he uses any opportunity to dramatise the differences in order to buy his boss (Bemba some time in case he can be freed before the elections) so that he can make a heroic comeback on the Congolese political scene.I have the majority argument concerning the Constitution’s Aticle 71 (relating to the presidential election in 2 rounds). It is quite long and didn’t get the time to summarise and translate it.I think J Kabila is just trying to use his majority now, before it is too late, to try and secure what he can before the big push comes to shelve.Affaire e0 suivre…

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