On the second day of his testimony, the fifth prosecution witness in the war crimes trial of Bosco Ntaganda told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that an ethnic Lendu armed group imposed “bad conditions” on the residents of Sayo town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“When the UPC left [Sayo], the FNI troops came back and destroyed everything,” said Witness P-886.
The FNI, or Nationalist and Integrationist Front (Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes), was an armed group of the Lendu ethnic group, which fought against the Hema-backed Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) during 2002-2003 armed conflict in Congo’s Ituri district. In December 2012, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the alleged former leader of the FNI, was acquitted of charges at the ICC.
The witness said the FNI militia did not allow residents to drink alcohol, forced women to walk around topless, and “punished or whipped” those who did not comply with their edicts.
Witness P-886 was responding to questions by defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon in relation to a video excerpt which featured residents of Sayo. The video was presented to the witness in closed session and most of his testimony was also heard in closed session.
On October 26, Witness P-886 testified that UPC fighters “terrorized” civilians in Sayo, forcing many members of the Lendu ethnic group to flee their homes.
Ntaganda, a former top commander in the UPC, is on trial over crimes he and his troops allegedly committed, primarily against members of the Lendu ethnic group. But the video screened in court, whose source the defense did not disclose in open court, appears to suggest that the Lendu FNI militia may also have brutalized civilians.
“You saw the video in which the two ladies mentioned having been intimidated by those who were there before the UPC – the Lendu. Does that match what you said about the conditions imposed by the UPC?” asked Bourgon.
“This woman said they couldn’t eat, carry out any work, or get wood. So these conditions they described, those are the conditions they experienced,” replied the witness. He added, “Everywhere the Lendu were, the conditions were the same.”
The cross-examination of Witness P-886 is expected to continue on Oct. 29.