Today, a prosecution witness in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda recounted how troops commanded by the accused made daily attacks on various Congolese villages occupied by members of the Lendu ethnic community. The witness said attacks by the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) fighters, who were predominantly of Hema ethnicity, forced civilians to flee from one village to another, often spending nights in the bush.
“The UPC [soldiers] surrounded all Lendu villages, and there were attacks on a daily basis,” said the witness who testified under the pseudonym Witness P800. Among the besieged localities were Sayo, Kobu, Mongbwalu, and surrounding villages in Ituri district.
Most of the evidence by Witness P800 in Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was heard in closed session. Judges granted him other protective measures including image and voice distortion during public broadcasts of his testimony. In the brief moments of open court, Witness P800 stated that during 2002, he was resident and employed in Sayo town. Following a UPC attack on the town in November 2002, he fled to Kobu, where he stayed for only two days before fleeing again.
“Why did you leave Kobu?” asked prosecution lawyer Diane Luping.
“I felt insecure. There were attacks in Kobu,” replied the witness. He said UPC soldiers knew that residents of Mongbwalu had fled towards Kobu and “that’s why they continued to attack.”
“Can you describe where you were staying during the attacks?” asked prosecuting lawyer Diane Luping.
“We lived in the bush because attacks were occurring at any time,” responded Witness P800. He said he and other residents continued to move from one village to another as the UPC soldiers continued to attack Lendu villages.
Ntaganda, the former deputy chief of staff of the UPC, is charged with attacking civilians, displacement of civilians, pillaging, murder, rape, sexual slavery, and using child soldiers, among other crimes allegedly committed during the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict. He denies all 18 charges against him, arguing that contrary to prosecution allegations, he was a revolutionary who fought for a return of peace and resettlement of refugees.
Witness P800 continues his testimony tomorrow morning, with cross-examination by defense lawyers.