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Voices from the Ground: In Search of Justice in Ituri

The below transcript is from a program on Radio Canal Révélation, a radio station based in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which aired on May 26 and May 30, 2016. The program is part of the radio station’s Interactive Radio for Justice and Peace Project, which promotes discussion on critical issues around justice in DRC. This transcript has been edited to remove non-relevant information.


Presenter: The trial of Bosco Ntaganda, former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) continues in The Hague in the Netherlands with the testimony of the victims lined up by the prosecution.

He [Ntaganda] is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. These crimes were allegedly committed in Ituri precisely in the Walendu Djatsi and Baniari Kilo sectors. The Interactive Radio for Justice and Peace team visited these two main sectors to talk with the people and leaders who experienced the war events between 2002 and 2003.

In this report, you will follow the views of the people of Nzebi, Saio, Kilo-state, and Kobu, where Bosco is well known. Points of view are shared while the ICC Outreach Unit and the radios communicate and discuss the trials taking place in the court. Some would even like to see the trial take place in Bunia. Mongwalu is located a hundred kilometers north of Bunia.

Let’s start with Avenue Chief, Elder Kilo Moto [Kilo Moto is a Congolese gold mining company]. He experienced the situation at Nzebi, and he would like things to go back as before.

Avenue Chef, Elder Kilo Moto: When he arrived here, I fled and I returned only after the war. What struck me was the destruction. It was only after four years that people started to reorganize. For example, the Kanga plant, a grinding mill, has still not been rebuilt. Even the road and the electric power are not ok. We want the development we had before. We need to develop other sources and not those left by the Belgians.

He [Ntaganda] must be punished; we have to punish these people. There have been deaths. We even dug up the bodies to conduct investigations here lately. But the question that remains is: they came to identify the victims but then nothing happened afterwards. We have repeatedly asked questions in Nzebi and Saïo, and they say that they came just to sensitize people on the Bosco case.

We ask the government to think of the victims wiping off their tears. They do not have homes and they started their lives from scratch.

Presenter: [We now have a] village chief Mabilindey 2 in Kilo Wanyali community sector. He considers it important to follow the trial in The Hague since it concerns Ituri, and he recommends forgiveness.

Village Head Mabilindey: We need to monitor and listen to the trial because there are even children from home that are there. We must follow developments in the case. What are the penalties and how do the testimonies work.

It was not one person who committed the act, there were several people. Maybe they were acting without their knowledge. So I ask that he should be forgiven, that this should not be repeated, and that the sentence be imposed but in a spirit of forgiveness.

As for international justice, their trial differs from our local justice. Here, we use the custom, but in international, it is quite another thing. There is no way to follow and understand that if it is not explained to you. This can lead to complications.

Presenter: Bosco actually arrived in Saio and Nzebi, a few kilometers from Mongbwalu center. This scared off some people and they allegedly lost many of their belongings. We met a Nzebi shopkeeper and a nurse in Saio. They talk about what they experienced at the time.

Trader in Nzebi: I experienced the events of the war here in Nzebi. We left, and when we returned there was nothing left. We stayed like that. Bosco made us flee. I went to North Kivu because there were killings. I’m not a man who works for justice, I am a preacher, I ask that we forgive those people.

Nurse in Saïo: I’m a nurse. At the time of the war, I was treating the wounded. I lost all my drugs. I have not recovered anything, and it was by the grace of God that I started a new life. There was no help as promised. There was looting. I cared for soldiers and militiamen for free. Some said I was treating and giving strength to the militiamen so that they could fight, while I was impartial, unbiased as would be anybody treating people in a war. They said I was going to lose everything since I attended to the enemies. Thanks to God I’m alive.

Presenter: In Kobu [50 km north of Bunia], life has resumed. The Tchudja group leader lived through the events in his own community. According to him, Bosco stayed in Kobu for three days. People died.

Chief Kobu: It’s very important to follow the Bosco case. He had stayed here in Kobu for three days. It is true he butchered people, over 52 people died. ICC people came here to investigate; they saw the remains of those killed […]. We still haven’t seen anything fair regarding what concerns us in Kobu. There were wounded people, with arms missing, the mouths deformed with bullet marks and even other body parts.

We regret that Colonel Kung Fu [Lendu fighter who fought against Ntaganda] was delegated to go to The Hague and is currently in prison in Makala in Kinshasa, he and Dragon. Their fate is unknown so far.

Since the ICC began, they have made inquiries […] but there is no solution so far for the population. She wants Floribert Njabu and Ngudjolo [Lendu leaders] to come back. The population of Kobu wants justice to do its job properly. We lost churches, schools, and residential houses. Property was looted. Now there is peace.

Presenter: Indeed life has returned to Kobu. We have visited the market. Apart from gold, agriculture is thriving. This explains the influx of various merchants from Bambu mines, Mongbwalu, Lodjo [trading centers and surrounding cities] who come for fresh supplies during the big Tuesday market every week at Kobu center. A female trader, a mother and a young girl who has come to accompany her grandmother to the market testify.

Mother:  There is no problem. We’re selling a lot, except that the Congolese franc loses its value to the dollar in recent days. We buy cheap and sell cheaper. I started selling here before the war. We used to do good business, now life is expensive.

Everyone wants to farm, and there are lots of foodstuffs. We just want to have enough to survive. At the time of the war, people lost a lot. Our dear ones have died; we lost our residential homes, things like clothes.

That’s life. Just trying to manage, running small businesses or farming instead of stealing. There you can manage to achieve good things.

Teenager: I study at school […] I am in fifth grade. Kobu life is good, there is peace.

Presenter: The head of the Qanyali Kilo sector […] follows closely the situation of the trial in The Hague. Besides the Outreach Unit of the ICC, he follows radio broadcasts. However, he stressed that after war there is peace and then, there is justice. And let justice do its job.

Chief of Qanyali Kilo sector: Well, after the war, life resumed. The authority of the State is restored. We note that there is peace despite some residual pockets [of insecurity]. Sometimes there are ambushes, but on the whole there is still security in the region.

Yes, compared to the situation we experienced, there were villages that were completely destroyed during the war, but now the majority has resumed life. It is only in small parts of the sector that people have come together, fearing the militiamen could return. But overall in any case, we can 90 percent say that life and nation-building have resumed.

Awareness is raised on any point, for example through the radio: people very often follow what is happening around the belligerents’ trial at the ICC. There are also the ICC agents living in our country […]. They often visit us and issue invitations. They raise awareness by informing the people of what is going on in Bosco Ntaganda, Germain Katanga, Mathieu Ngudjolo, etc. trials.

After war there is peace and after peace there is justice. So it is up to justice to do its job. Personally I cannot wish […] this person could be arrested or that person could be freed. But according to the fact that has been established, I wish justice could be done in all fairness. This is just our wish, so that the victims are not penalized.

You know, madam, what happened in Ituri touched every corner, not only Kilo. But it’s all of Ituri as a whole. And when we talk about war, we feel that no one wants to return to these facts. We are talking about encouraging people to take action to rebuild our province that has been torn by war and the fact that we have already realized that war is not a good thing, we only ask the Ituri population to strengthen us to rebuild our beloved province […] with the current governor we must hold hands to support him so that we can really build our province.

Presenter: About Bosco Ntaganda, members of his defense team are currently touring Ituri. Mrs. Véronique Talbot is a Canadian lawyer. She talks about this and wishes there was a fair trial. She is now conducting her own investigation in the field.

Véronique Talbot: So regarding defense, we must first recall that at the ICC there are several parties involved: there is the prosecutor, the victims’ representatives, judges, and there is the defense. All these participants are there to hear witnesses, hear people explain everything that happened between 2002 and 2003 in Ituri.

The prosecutor now presents witnesses, she presents her evidence. Regarding defense, we are there to test this evidence, to ensure that the evidence really represents what happened. So, for example, we cross-examine witnesses. We have questions to ask witnesses. And we want to ensure that the trial is fair and equitable, that there are judicial guarantees that Mr. Ntaganda could tell his story. We also want to ensure that the evidence presented is accurate evidence. This is actually the essence of our work.

To do that, I’m here to conduct field investigation. So I am here to listen to people and search for the truth of what happened here. The prosecution has been here for about ten years for their investigations. And we, in the defense team have been making inquiries since 2013. We’ve met several people, we’re heard stories that were a little different from what the prosecutor presents.

Our role is to just keep looking, to continue to investigate and finally to present our version of the facts: Mr. Ntaganda’s version to the judges after the end of the prosecutor’s version […].

Presenter: The Bosco Ntaganda trial is going on in The Hague. It began on September 2, 2015. There are 2,149 recognized victims taking part in the trial and proceedings.

“In Search of Justice” is produced by Radio Canal Revelation as part of its Interactive Radio for Justice and Peace project.