"Bemba did not come on his own"

17 November 2010 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo was once a business tycoon, a warlord, a vice-president - and currently still has a seat in DR Congo’s senate. But from Monday he may take his seat in the dock as the most high profile war crimes suspect at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prosecutors say he bears responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), whose citizens are closely following the controversial process.

Bemba stands trial for ordering his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia to rape, murder and plunder in the CAR. “The Bemba case is always alive for the people of the CAR,” says Sylvie Panika, editor in Chief of Radio Ndeke-Luka in Bangui, which broadcasts the programme Justice for all. “People have suffered so much that they are waiting for this ICC trial. They are waiting for the outcome.”

Bemba got involved in the CAR in 2002 when President Ange-Félix Patassé asked him to help fight a rebellion by then-General François Bozizé. During the brutal conflict that unfolded all sides committed large-scale human rights violations against civilians. Bemba’s troops - better known in the CAR as Banyamulengue - left the country in March 2003. Bozizé took power after a coup while Pattasé went into exile in Togo.

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