The Hague, September 27, 2011 (FH) - Former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga started on Tuesday to testify in his own defence before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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Katanga is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged role in the attack of Bogoro (Ituri, Eastern DRC) on February 24, 2003 where over 200 people were killed.

Speaking in French, the accused explained that "the whole thing started around 2000 when the Ugandan army attacked [our area]. Ugandans had no pity. We didn't know what were their goals. They started to attack villages" in Ituri, Katanga insisted.

Once, they targeted Bajanga Institute, the Anglican school that Germain Katanga attended. "Ugandan opened fire on students who ran away in panic. We couldn't go to school any longer. So that's how was born the idea of fighting and organizing self-defence".

According to the defendant, the situation worsened in 2001 when a Ugandan Battalion settled in Getty, a village close to Bunia (Ituri's administrative center).

"We wanted to protect our people and our goods", Katanga explained. "That was what self-defence was all about : not let our people suffer".  "That historic day", Katanga's militia defeated Ugandans in Getty.

 Ugandans' response was to increase their strength and to widen their field of operations. "They started to build roads for their pick-ups", Katanga underlined.

"For them, a small straw house, a hut was to be burnt. For us, that's how we build houses", he told the three judges. "If we can't sleep in straw houses, where are we going to sleep ?", he asked. "We don't have any caves to live in!"

Katanga will resume his testimony tomorrow.

His trial opened in November 2009.


© Hirondelle News Agency