Who is Germain Katanga?

Germain Katanga was born on April 28, 1978 in Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a member of the Ngiti ethnicity. He is married and the father of a son and a daughter. Katanga was the alleged leader of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) which is one of the warring parties in the DRC and currently on trial at the ICC. The conflict in the DRC is one of the most devastating and most violent conflicts in the world. Over 5 million of people died either by being killed in the conflict or as an indirect consequence of the war: because of hunger, thirst or diseases while being on the run or within refugee camps.

The conflict started in 1993 and despite a peace accord in 2003 the conflict is still ongoing. Many different militarized units fight within the conflict. One of them is the FRPI which consisted mostly of recruits from the Lendu and Ngiti ethnicity and which was involved in the conflict in Ituri. The FRPI was established in November 2002 and as off the beginning of 2003 Katanga became its leader. The FRPI aligned itself with the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI). Together they were fighting Lubanga’s Union Patriotique de Congo (UPC) consisting mainly of Hema. According to a survey conducted by Lawry and others 46.3% of the households and thus over 2 million people in Ituri and the Kivu regions suffered physical or sexual violations during the conflict in the period 1993-2010. The violence within the Ituri region was committed by mainly the UPC (39.8%); the FNI (38.3%) and the UPDF (18.4%). The FRPI was also named as one of the perpetrators groups.

The government of the DRC referred the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2003. In June 2004 official investigations were started. In the meantime as part of a peace process –Katanga and five other war lords were appointed by president Joseph Kabila as Brigadier-General of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) on December 11, 2004 despite heavy criticism of for instance Human Rights Watch. In 2005 Katanga was arrested because of his alleged involvement in the killing of nine peacekeepers. The ICC arrest warrant for Katanga was issued on July 2, 2007 and he was transferred to The Hague on October 17, 2007. Katanga is one of six people indicted by the ICC in relation to the crimes committed in the DRC and he was the second person in custody of the ICC.

The first person ever to be convicted by the ICC was Thomas Lubanga of the Patriotic Union of Congolese (UPC). Lubanga was sentenced on March 14, 2012 to 14 years imprisonment for child soldiering. The case of Katanga was joined with the case of Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the alleged leader of the Front of National Integration (FNI). The trial started on November 24, 2007 and lasted until May 2012. Katanga is charged with crimes against humanity, more particular murder, rape and sexual slavery and war crimes including child soldiering; attacking civilians; wilful killing and destruction of property. The trial is focused on the attack of the village of Bogoro on February 24, 2003 in which about 200 civilians died. Katanga was one of the alleged leaders of this attack. One of the gruesome details is that in the aftermath the attackers imprisoned civilians in a room filled with corpses. According to Human Rights Watch Katanga was also involved in the attack on the Nyakunde Hospital in September 2002 in which 1200 Hema were murdered. This incident is however not part of the charges at the ICC. While awaiting the verdict the charges against Katanga and Chui were severed and in December 2012 Chui was acquitted as there was not enough evidence to prove that he was indeed the commander of the FNI. The judgment of the ICC in the Katanga case will be delivered on March 7, 2014.

Literature

  • Human Rights Watch (2005), D.R. Congo: army should not appoint war criminals.
  • Lawry, L. A.M. de Brouwer, A. Smeulers, J.C. Rosa, M. Kisielewski, K. Johnson, J. Scott & J. Wieczorek (2014). The use of population-based surveys for prosecutions at the International Criminal Court: a case study of Democratic Republic of Congo, International Criminal Justice Review, available on-line //icj.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/02/24/1057567714523982.full.pdf+html