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.
Most inhabitants of Bunia are in favor of holding closing statements in their city in the case against Bosco Ntaganda, but some are still skeptical because of ongoing bloody conflicts.
Almost 60 people out of 100 included in the project among the population of affected communities welcome the fact that the court is considering the possibility of holding the closing statements in the Ntaganda trial in Bunia, Ituri province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“The ICC [International Criminal Court] judges have had a good idea since the trial [should have] taken place here from the start, in the place where the events actually took place. It will be a first,” said an resident of Mongbwalu, a mining town, 80 km north of Bunia, which was a location of one of Bosco Ntaganda’s alleged attacks in 2003.
“It will be great because [Mr.] Ntaganda is judged very far, thousands of kilometers away. Because of this, we [depend] on the images and sounds that you [the] journalists are providing to us. Also, we will see him live and we will read on his face whether he is guilty or not,” said a Lendu community leader.
A 25-year-old woman believes that the court’s presence in Ituri will bring relief to victims: “We will remember that the trials of Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga took place in The Hague, at the ICC headquarters. So nobody knew what actually happened there. It will be a great chance and opportunity.”
These comments are supported by Christian Utheki, an attorney and legal researcher: “This intervention will clarify to the population of Ituri the procedure before the Court and the progress of the [Ntaganda] trial. The highest impact will be that the population will trust the ICC.”
However, some people are adamant that the ICC would make a major mistake by sitting in Bunia for the closing statements.
A 35-year-old woman, who was the victim of the crimes committed by Mr. Ntaganda, said: “Bringing Bosco Ntaganda here to Bunia, […] will bring back bad memories. I lost several members of my family at that time.”
Xavier Maki, chairman of the Justice Plus human rights organization in Bunia, went further. In his opinion, political instability, electoral stakes, the reopening of ethnic conflicts in Djugu, and host infrastructures render the situation precarious.
“Bosco Ntaganda’s turf was in Djugu. And currently there are problems in Djugu, with thousands of people being displaced to Bunia. Among them, the army arrested some who carried weapons (machetes, arrows, axes). There are too many risks and conflict manipulations. I say no to any kind of presence in Bunia,” said Maki.
Since February 2, 2018, conflicts have restarted in Ituri. According to information gathered by humanitarian organizations, these conflicts have already resulted in more than 200 deaths, hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and almost 20,000 refugees in neighboring Uganda.
The regional office of the National Human Rights Committee in Ituri had a similar reaction.
“The ICC has to wait for peace to return to Ituri because people are still hot headed at the moment,” said Marie Pacuryema, the regional coordinator.
After receiving submissions from all parties on this matter, as well as the court’s Registrar, ICC judges will then decide where to hold the closing hearing.