A boy soldier’s father – and former Lubanga bodyguard – testifies

The second week of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) came to a close with the father of the boy soldier that recanted his testimony late last week, and suggested he had been coached on what to say.  With only four days of activity at the court due to a judge’s absence on Monday, the bulk of the week’s activities were focused on the father’s testimony and accounts of how his son was taken by Lubanga’s militia at the age of 11.

Additionally, the father told prosecutors that he was Lubanga’s personal bodyguard at the time of his son’s abduction in 2002.  Once he learned that his son had been taken and was at a camp in Bule of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, he left the militia and became a deserter with aspirations to find and demobalize his son.  According to Rachel Irwin‘s report at LubangaTrial.org, Marc Desalliers, one of Lubanga’s attorneys, asked why he wouldn’t ask Lubanga permission to leave, the witness responded, “Your job is different, so you cannot understand how it works in [the] army,”responded the witness.  “If I asked, what do you think my boss would have thought? That I don’t want my son to join [the] army? I was afraid. I didn’t want to be beaten up.”

Desalliers went on to ask why the witness wouldn’t fear going to the militia’s training camp in Bule, since he had just deserted the militia.  “In the Bule camp, I had my friends,” said the witness. “I couldn’t be afraid of my friends.”   The boy returned to school, but when he was recognized by other militia soldiers while visiting a relative, he was considered a deserter, his father said.  “[My son] fell into an ambush,” he continued. “The UPC [Union of Congolese Patriots] soldiers arrested and beat him. He bears a scar to this day on his calf.”

The father told the court he paid money for his son’s return.

Throughout his testimony, the witness remained shielded from public view, his face and voice distorted digitally.  Unfortunately, he was unable to finish his testimony today due to technical problems, which delayed the trial for nearly two hours.  Irwin reported that Judge Fulford ordered a “full and comprehensive” report on the problem, telling the court that the “consequences of today’s delay are fairly considerable.”

Here’s an interview with Bukeni on how he first got involved with children soldiers in the DRC:

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