How Kony Used Fear to Tame Ongwen, other LRA Rebels

By Agencies

The trial of Dominic Ongwen continued on Wednesday, 27 September 2017, with the testimonies of the 34th and 35th Prosecution witnesses: Ray Apire and John Lubwama.

Cross-examination of Ray Apire, alias Witness P-0172

As a former LRA Sick-bay Captain, Apire appeared before the Chamber for the second day in a row.

He testified about spirituality within the LRA, the attack on Lukodi and the difficulties LRA abductees faced to escape.

Guided by the questions posed by Defence Legal Assistant Thomas Obhof, Apire described some of the religious beliefs and customs within the LRA.

He explained that Joseph Kony would pray over “normal water fetched from a stream” and then use it to make the sing of the cross with it.

After that, Kony would become “possessed” by the “Holy Spirit”, the witness said.

In addition, the witness testified that LRA members were not allowed to eat pigs, because according to Kony “God sent evil on the pigs” so they were considered as “not clean animals” that “should not be eaten”.

Further on, Apire explained that because Kony claimed to be speaking through the Holy Spirit, people were scared and would follow his orders.

“If it’s mentioned that this is coming from God there is no way you can fail to believe […] you’d actually be scared as well”, he added.

Additionally, in response to the questions posed by Defence Counsel Krispus Ayena Odongo the witness also indicated that some commanders could even believe that spirits were “hovering” over them during battle.

Moreover, Apire recounted that by the time he escaped his wife had already escaped from the LRA.

He stated that his wife communicated with him with a coded message and told him that it was safe to escape the LRA.

The witness recalled that he also had a conversation with Dominic Ongwen about escaping, but “the fear instilled in Ongwen was so great” that it was “difficult for him” to make the decision to escape.

According to Mr Apire, at that time Ongwen was “afraid of the ICC”.

The witness also indicated that if Ongwen would have escaped during the peace talks, Joseph Kony “would have been very, very angry” and the peace efforts would have “collapsed”.

This concluded the testimony of Apire, also known as Witness P-0172, before the International Criminal Court.

Examination-in-chief of Mr John Lubwama, alias Witness P-0047

On the second session of the day, Lubwama was summoned to Court to testify as a former UPDF soldier, commander during Pajule’s attack.

In answering questions put to him by OTP Trial Lawyer Kamran Choudhry, the witness went through his previous statement and recounted the attack on the Pajule IDP camp on 10 October 2003.

In this regard, the witness recognized a document shown to him as the witness statement he gave to the OTP investigators on 9 November 2004, and he confirmed the initials and signature on the document to be his own.

“I was asked to draw a map of the Pajule Military Barracks in relation to the Pajule IDP camp”, he stated.

He further recognized another document as a situation report written by him and a picture of LRA casualties taken by journalists after the Pajule attack.

In relation to the attack on the Pajule IDP camp, the witness said that, as commander of the UPDF forces in Pajule, his duties included monitoring the locality of Pajule and “protecting” the population at the IDP camp from any attack by “the enemy”.

Lubwama also described what he saw at the Pajule Trading Centre after the attack: “I saw what the enemy had done.

They had broken down the doors of the shops and abducted some members of the population”, he said.

In addition, Lubwama testified that before the attack on Pajule, people around the area informed him about someone who was allegedly acting as collaborator for the LRA.

He said that the alleged collaborator was arrested, interrogated and then released, because “no evidence was found” against him.

According to Lubwama, the alleged collaborator was a member of the “peace initiative committee” and was then “taken hostage by the enemy” during the Pajule attack. Nevertheless, the witness further indicated that this individual was later released by the LRA, together with 50 other abductees.

Lubwama added that, after his release from the LRA, the alleged collaborator approached him and told him that he personally asked Otti to let him go.

Lastly, in answering questions posed by the Representative of the Office Public Counsel for Victims Orchlon Narantsetseg, the witness stated that he saw houses burned and destroyed at Pajule, and that the attack left “casualties on all sides”.

“The members of the population were very much affected […] the impact [of the attack] was negative,” he concluded.

The trial in the case of Dominic Ongwen resumes on Thursday, 28 September 2017, with the cross-examination of John Lubwama.

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