Bosco Ntaganda ordered his troops to stop looting, but he continued pillaging towns occupied by his armed militia during the 2002-2003 conflict, according to witness testimony heard today.
“We were at the camp, and Brigade Commander Salumu [Mulenda] said that Bosco had requested we stop pillaging and that anyone found pillaging would be arrested,” recounted Witness P017, a former insider in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), who was testifying in Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He said Ntaganda personally continued to pillage the Congolese town of Mongbwalu after he gave the order to his soldiers.
The witness, who was under questioning by prosecution lawyer Diane Luping, said he did not know why the order was given, but he added that UPC soldiers “continued to pillage as if no order had been given.”
Asked which UPC soldiers continued to pillage, the witness replied: “After the order was issued, we went to Bosco’s camp, and it is there I saw the vehicle he was travelling in and I saw in that vehicle some equipment which had been taken from the hospital.” The witness also recalled seeing looted goods at Commander Salumu’s camp.
“Besides Salumu and Bosco, were other commanders still pillaging after the order was given?” asked the prosecutor.
“Over a 3 [to] 4 day period, other commanders and soldiers went from house to house and continued to loot or pillage,” responded Witness P017. He recalled an incident when a soldier looted a motorcycle, and a commander grabbed it from him. “Anyone from a higher rank could take items from someone of a lower rank if they wanted,” he said.
Ntaganda is the former deputy chief of staff of the armed wing of the UPC, which was known as the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). This was among several militia groups active in armed conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic communities of Congo’s Ituri region during 2002 and 2003. The UPC, which mainly had Hema soldiers, led attacks that prosecutors claim targeted Lendu civilians.
Prosecutors charge that Ntaganda, 42, on some occasions personally participated in committing crimes including murder, rape, and pillaging. He denies all 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him.
Witness P017, who was today testifying for the second day, will continue giving evidence on Monday, February 1.