By Susan Kendi
Bosco Ntaganda commonly referred to as the “Terminator” made an unsworn statement before judges of the International Criminal Court at the conclusion of his trial on August 30, 2018. Below are edited excerpts from his statement:
“I am a revolutionary but I am not a criminal. My testimony before this court has been an enriching experience that I will never forget. It was not an easy thing but I truly needed to tell you my story, speak publicly about my military career.
I became a soldier at 18, and I continued my career until I was appointed acting chief of general staff late in 2003. The ‘Terminator’ described by the prosecutor is not me. It has been exactly five years, five months and seven days, since the time I came forward and appeared before the court to respond to the accusations against me.
The decision I made to go to the American Embassy and then be transferred to The Hague changed my life profoundly. Only a few years before that day, I was a general in the Congolese national army and as such I worked even with Manuka officials during operations led against the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda) in North Kivu and in South Kivu. But I truly felt the need to surrender voluntarily, and face the charges against me. Even though I was not familiar with all the details of these charges setting the record straight publicly and helping to establish the truth, these were fundamental tasks for me.
In 2013, when I surrendered voluntarily, I was convinced and I am still convinced today that I had no reason to reproach myself. I am a man and a father. I realized that this time spent in detention has been a difficult tribulation because I am being detained far away from my family.
I don’t even know some of my seven children and some of them do not even know their father, even though they are already grown up.
Listening to all these allegations against me from the prosecution and hearing these allegations day in, day out that has not been easy, but I have understood that this is part of the judicial process and I am at peace with myself because I know that these allegations are nothing more than lies.
I will not hark back to the restrictions that were placed on my contacts with family members for nearly three years.I am extremely grateful that my communication with my family and my friends have been reestablished ever since the end of the case.
All the places I have gone to over the years since my earliest days, I have always been a disciplined person and it is thanks to that discipline that I became a general at a very young age.
Even now at the detention unit, my fellow detained persons have chosen me several times to represent them because of my discipline, which I have always shown.
When I was taught military leadership, I learned that a good leader sets an example. That lesson has shaped the person that I am today. I have done my best to pass on this message and these values to those who were under my command, so that these men would become exemplary military leaders. Leaders who would respect the population and protect their property.
I took the decision to testify of my own volition and without coercion. I answered the questions that were put to me by you, the judges, the prosecutor, the victims’ representatives and by my own counsel.
I never made any attempt to shirk my responsibilities and although I was a general staff officer, I did not hesitate to acknowledge my responsibilities as commander of certain operations such as the one in Mongbwalu. I described the manner in which I arrived Bunia, a region that I did not even know, and I also explained how I came to be a member of the FPLC(Forces Patriotiques pour la libération du Congo).
I elaborated in my role as the deputy chief of staff in charge of operations and organization as well as on my relationships with my superiors Kisembo and Lubanga. I equally made it clear that I was not a politician.
Everything that I said and elaborated upon relating to the FPLC operations can be found in my log books although, the messages in my logbooks constitute only a part of what I did to accomplish the missions assigned to me by my superiors, and to enforce discipline among the members of the FPLC.
I am immensely proud of what we were able to achieve in such a short time, and with extremely limited resources. We have successfully set up a well-structured and disciplined group with the objective of protecting the civilian population irrespective of ethnic or regional origin.
My logbooks clearly showed that I ordered all elements suspected of having committed offences to be remanded in custody pending investigations so as to prevent those elements from tarnishing the ideology of the FPLC.
For example, between 2002 and 2003 and with the agreement of my superiors, I never hesitated in meting out punishment against both soldiers and senior officers alike who were found guilty of committing offences. Such actions were aimed at protecting the population and the property. Your honours that was the ideology of the UPC and FPLC.
The commanders and soldiers of the FPLC came from different military groups. I was not aware of their ethnic origins because they were not required to disclose their ethnicity.
The FPLC was not made up of members of a single ethnic group. We ensured protection for the Landu civilians who had sought refuge with us in Mandro, as a result of the threats posed by Landu combatants because they had refused to take part in the attacks against the Hema. This is a telling example of our policy to protect all members of the population without discrimination. Even to this day, the people that we protected are still living in the same locality.
I had hoped that the preliminary hearings would take place in our home territory of Ituri where I am accused of having perpetrated crimes by the prosecutor.
Ituri has suffered a great deal and many of his inhabitants from all ethnic groups have been subjected to severe harm as a result of the ethnic conflict that wreaked havoc in that territory as from 1999. As I have already mentioned earlier that ethnic conflict was ignited by politicians who plunged Congo into a bloodbath with their incendiary statements such as, “kill all the Tutsi and those who look like them” in a bid to gratify their thirst for power.
I am a Congolese national whose objective has always been to make it possible for all Congolese to live in peace and harmony irrespective of their ethnicity.
I feel great compassion as a result of all the suffering and harm visited upon the civilian populations of all the ethnic groups.
The objective of the UPC-RP was to resolve the problems plaguing Congo and to protect the civilian population by putting an end to all acts of ethnically motivated violence.
In spite of the accusations that have been made against me, I can take comfort in the knowledge that the UPC-RP the FPLC and myself made every effort possible to achieve that effort that goal.
Today, the UPC is a legally constituted political party established in the political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo the party continues to advocate the same values and ideology as the UPC-RP of 2002, 2003. It has representatives in the National Assembly and in other institutions of the country. It may be cold comfort in the context of the unrest that continues to afflict the DRC, but I venture to suggest that the prevailing situation also is quite revealing of the essence and objective of the UPC RP in its time.”