In his continuing testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC), ex-militia leader Bosco Ntaganda stated that he enforced discipline in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) and punished any fighter who attacked civilians.
“If any soldier had attacked the civilian population and such information was brought to my attention, such soldier would be punished,” said Ntaganda. He was responding to a question by a prosecuting lawyer Nicole Samson about the alleged attacks by FPLC militia on members of the Lendu ethnic group.
Asked by Samson whether he investigated any ethnically motivated attacks, Ntaganda stated that the FPLC provided protection to all ethnic groups in Congo’s Ituri district, and there were no campaigns against civilians of Lendu ethnicity.
“In my capacity as the commander in the FPLC, and in line with our ideology, I never heard of any cases involving FPLC’s attacks on the population,” stated Ntaganda. He further explained when he heard of any such incidents, he issued punishments. “You can look at my log book. When I knew that incidents had taken place, I hurried to intervene,” he added.
Ntaganda stands accused of crimes allegedly committed by himself and his troops during an ethnic conflict in Congo from 2002 to 2003. He is on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, sexual slavery of civilians, pillaging, displacement of civilians, attacking protected objects, and enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of 15 years.
Since commencement of his testimony last June, Ntaganda has stated that he was a peacemaker and a disciplinarian, claiming he fought against armed groups that perpetuated discrimination and attacks on members of the Tutsi and Hema ethnic groups.
On Wednesday, speaking about security complaints and reports of attacks by the FPLC against the Ituri residents, Ntaganda stated, “When I was informed, I had to act. I took that very, very seriously.”
Samson presented reports purportedly written in November 2002 by Eric Mbabazi, the FPLC commander in charge of civil-military relations. The reports cited complaints by Ituri residents about attacks by the militiamen. Asked whether he was privy to Mbabazi’s reports, Ntaganda responded that the reports were made to his boss, Floribert Kisembo, who was the FPLC chief of staff.
He then said Kisembo did not discuss those reports with him. “If the head of the G5 Bureau [Mbabazi] had given me a copy, perhaps I would have discussed it with Kisembo. But if the report was only given to Kisembo, he had no obligation to discuss it with me,” he added.
Samson contended on Thursday that since the FPLC did not pay its fighters salaries, it condoned a system where soldiers and commanders grabbed money and property from civilians as “payment.” However, citing two examples, Ntaganda said any FPLC fighter who grabbed civilians’ property was detained and punished. “We had the odd, isolated case but we punished them,” he added. ”On that basis, one can’t say these were instructions coming from senior officers given to the men as a form of paying themselves.”
The prosecution continues its cross-examination of Ntaganda on Monday.