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Witness: Bemba Delegated Command of His Troops

Today, a witness stated that during the 2002-2003 conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba “delegated” command and control of his troops to that country’s authorities.

Testifying under the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-39,’ the witness claimed the decision to delegate was taken because it would have been difficult for Mr. Bemba to obtain intelligence information from the battlefield and react to it in a timely manner.

Besides the accused’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) forces, numerous other groups were involved in the military operations. As such, the witness said, it would have been difficult for Mr. Bemba – who was based in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo – to maintain command and control.

‘Witness D04-39’ is a former insider in the group the accused led. He is testifying in Mr. Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) via video link.

Prosecutors at the ICC claim that Mr. Bemba bears command responsibility for the rapes, murders, and pillaging allegedly committed by his troops who were among the forces that supported former Central African president Ange-Félix Patassé’s campaign against an armed insurrection.

“Did the MLC have the capacity to gather and process military intelligence in the process of ongoing operations in the CAR?” asked defense lawyer Aime Kilolo-Musamba.

“Capacity, yes,” responded the witness. “We did have officers who were capable and well trained to gather evidence. As for the possibility of doing so in the CAR, the answer is no.” He explained that Mr. Bemba did not send any intelligence officer to the neighboring country; all intelligence was managed by Central African authorities.

The witness stated that upon arrival in the conflict country, the Congolese troops received Central African military uniforms and were integrated into the national army. They received logistics from that country’s authorities, as it was difficult from the MLC to supply those units from its headquarters in Congo, due to the distance and limited means.

Other foreign forces involved in the conflict included Libyan soldiers, Community of Saharan-Sahel State (CEN-SAD) troops in support of Patassé’s forces, and Chadian nationals who fought alongside insurgents led by François Bozizé. Furthermore, there were several local ethnic militias and numerous army units active in the conflict. Mr. Bemba denies all five charges against him.

‘Witness D04-39’ continues his testimony tomorrow morning.