Iturians tired of waiting

25 November 2009 by Sylvere Unen

As the trial of former militiamen Mathieu Ngudjolo and Germain Katanga opened this week at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, residents of their home district of Ituri in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are losing faith in the court. 

In March 2005, the arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo struck a chord with the population of the DRC and their attention turned to the ICC, where one of the principal actors in the Iturian tragedy was going to be tried for the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

In Ituri, the lack of equitable justice, poor governance, and the absence of dialogue have all contributed to the rise in bloody inter-ethnic violence, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives. The ICC seemed to offer an opportunity to re-establish peace through justice.

However, from the outset the Hema community - to which Lubanga belongs - saw the court as an instrument of oppression by the international community.

In February 2008, the arrest of two more Iturians, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, changed everything.

The two new defendants came from the Lendu ethnic group which fought the Hema during the war. The two men were accused of committing crimes in Bogoro, a Hema village located 30km south of Bunia. From that point on, the talk in Ituri was of actions perpetrated against sons of this district.

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