A former insider in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the ethnic mix of the group’s fighters, which he said excluded the Lendu community.
Although most of the evidence he gave on September 22 and 24, 2015 was heard in closed session, in open court the witness explained that the group had fighters from various other ethnic groups.
“What I can say is that there were no Lendus within the FPLC [Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo]. There were some Nyalis and some Alurs,” said the witness, who goes by the pseudonym Witness P-0901. He added that the group also recruited some Nyali because the mother of FPLC chief of staff Floribert Kisembo belonged to that ethnic group.
Defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon suggested that the FPLC wanted to win the trust of the entire population irrespective of ethnic affiliation.
The witness replied: “The FPLC wanted to show the population that they were a neutral movement but they were not able to win the trust of the entire population.”
Prosecutors claim that Ntaganda, 41, commanded and on some occasions personally participated in committing crimes including murder, rape, attacks on civilians, and pillaging against the non-Hema civilian population of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district. The alleged crimes, which purportedly targeted the Lendu, were committed during a 2002-2003 ethnic conflict.
Bourgon asked the witness if he could confirm that Lendu combatants were systematically attacking villagers during the conflict.
The witness said there were attacks and counter-attacks by various ethnic militia groups. “A Lendu who attacked a Gegere would have his reasons for doing so. Similarly, a Gegere who attacked the Lendu would have his reasons and that is how the conflict worsened,” he said.
According to the witness, among the Lendu combatants were fighters who deserted from the Congolese Popular Army (APC) rebel group and were armed with guns. Other combatants carried bows and arrows, spears, machetes, and knives.
The witness dismissed claims by the defense lawyer that within the APC, there was discrimination against Hema soldiers. He said John Tibasiima, one of the vice presidents of the group, was a Hema and the movement also had Hema ministers. The group’s commanders included both Lendu and Hema. The witness said he was a member of APC before joining UPC/FPLC.
The defense continues its cross-examination of Witness P-0901 on Friday, September 25, 2015.