This article was prepared by our partner Radio Canal Révélation, a radio station based in Bunia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as part of an interactive radio project on justice and peace which encourages a debate on issues related to justice in the DRC. The views conveyed in this article belong to the people interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of all the community members, or those of the victims.
Fourteen years after the events, hundreds of victims of the crimes committed by Bosco Ntaganda and Thomas Lubanga in Mahagi, Ituri Province in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, complain that they still have not received any compensation.
“We listen to the radio, watch television, and have people testifying that, a month after the end of a war or a conflict, reparations should begin. But we in Mahagi have not received anything for 14 years,” said Louis-Guillaume Uyergiu, spokesman for the Ndrele victims.
Ndrele is a commercial center in the Mahagi territory, 160 km north of the city of Bunia. In 2003, this shopping center was occupied by Thomas Lubanga and Bosco Ntaganda’s Union of Congolese Patriots troops, chasing their Lendu enemy of the Nationalists’ and Integrationists’ Front.
Dozens of houses were burned, thousands of people displaced, hundreds of girls and women raped or deported.
“It hurts us especially that our executioners arrested in The Hague have put on weight in prison, while we, victims, are losing weight. Some of us are even dead and will no longer benefit from reparations. We filled out form upon form to no avail,” he said.
Dozens of women and girls raped by Bosco Ntaganda’s troops have become prostitutes, says a woman working for the non-governmental organization SOFEPADI (Women’s Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development), which accompanies victims of sexual violence in Ituri.
The consequence, according to these victims, is that the population of Mahagi, estimated at nearly 3 million inhabitants, is less interested in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV).
But the ICC field office in Ituri talks of the Ndrele victims’ ignorance of procedures.
“The [participation and reparations] forms are dealt with by VPRS [Victims Participation and Reparations Section of the ICC Registry]. I accompanied [the head of this section] twice to Ndrele. He brought people together, distributed the forms, [which were] completed to be submitted to the judges,” said Nicolas Kuyaku, ICC’s spokesperson and outreach program head in Ituri.
As part of their assistance mandate, the TFV claims they have intervened in Ndrele.
“We ask the context in which the crimes were committed. If these crimes fall within the criteria under ICC jurisdiction, and we have a project, we intervene. We have funded the socio-economic reintegration of former child soldiers, exclusively in the Mahagi territory [in which Ndrele is located] in six localities,” said Bertin Bishikwabo, the TFV field monitoring officer.
However, the TFV acknowledges that it did not intervene in the context of victims of rape and sexual violence in Mahagi.
“I ask people to calm down, and first let proceedings go on in court,” reassured Nicolas Kuyaku.