Special Reports

Inside Kony’s Demonic Possessions and Stormy Relationship with Vincent Otti

The trial of Dominic Ongwen continued on Monday, 18 September 2017, with the cross-examination of the 30thProsecution witness, Witness P-0070.

This witness was given protective measures of face distortion as well as recourse to private sessions.

Legal assistance for the witness was provided by Julius von Bóné.

On this second day of his testimony, Witness P-0070 testified about Dominic Ongwen’s injury and his relationship with him, about his abduction and experiences within the LRA, and about Joseph Kony’s spirituality and authority in the LRA.

In answering questions put to him by Defence Legal Assistant Thomas Obhof, Witness P-0070 first discussed about Ongwen’s injury for which Ongwen was taken to the “Sick-bay”.

He explained that he got separated from Ongwen in 2002 and never met him again.

“Right from the time he left the sick-bay I never got any information whether he got any senior appointment following his injury”, he said.

Nevertheless, later questioned by Defence Counsel Krispus Ayena Odongo, the witness recounted that he spent a long time in the bush with Dominic Ongwen and that they grew up very closely.

Based on the time they spent together in the bush, Witness P-0070 estimated that Ongwen is younger than him.

Also, the witness told the Chamber that at the time when they were together, he did not see any unusual behaviour by Ongwen nor did he see him as a “fierce” or “unfriendly” person.

When asked how Ongwen handled the young abductees brought into the LRA, the witness said that he never heard of any report that indicated that Ongwen mistreated people under him.

Furthermore, Witness P-0070 recalled that he was abducted in 1988 by the “Special Mobile Forces”, which later became “Stockree”, of “The Holy Spirit”.

At that time, he explained the LRA was still known as “The Holy Spirit”.

Witness P-0070 also said that if someone managed to escape, the “Holy Spirit” forces would go to the village of origin of that person and “burn everything down”.

“Once you are abducted, if you attempt to escape […] there’s nothing other than death”, he added.

The witness mentioned that personal information about abductees was collected in a book, such as the name of the individual abducted, his or her parents’ names and the name of the area from which that person was abducted.

Later on, Witness P-0070 was interrogated about his interview with the OTP investigators.

He stated that OTP investigators told him they were only interested in those “most responsible” for the crimes committed.

“At the time when I start meeting with the investigators, that is what was explained to me […] I was also given the amnesty certificate because of that”, he said.

When asked who are the most responsible for starting the war in northern Uganda, Witness P-0070 told the Chamber that Joseph  Kony was overall in charge of the LRA, so “he was the one responsible”.

“I have no blame on all those people who were abducted and were given guns and forced to go to fight. It’s just like a dog at home who is sent to do hunting,” he added.

Regarding Kony’s spirituality and leadership within the LRA, the witness explained that prayers were frequently conducted after moving to Sudan and that the 7th of April would be celebrated as the day the “Holy Spirit came upon Joseph Kony” and “bestowed upon him the fighting power”.

He also told the Court that Kony would “very frequently” become possessed, during which times he would have “red eyes” and would look like a “very fierce person”.

Witness P-0070 testified that the religious discussions in the LRA would make young children believe in what they were told and would give them confidence to stay in the bush.

Later on, he explained that Kony would say that children’s minds are easy to influence, and that he “formed the opinion that that was the way in which [Kony] brainwashed people”.

Witness P-0070 told the Court that when Kony claimed to be possessed people would be afraid.

Moreover, in relation to Kony’s authority in the LRA, Witness P-0070 testified that general rules within the LRA were issued by Joseph Kony.

“The power to promote comes from [Kony] directly […] he never mentioned that he got the instruction from the spirits […] from officers upwards it is himself who gives the promotion,” he indicated.

Witness P-0070 also indicated that sometimes Kony could give orders bypassing Vincent Otti and his other commanders and was the only one with the authority to distribute women as wives.

Witness P-0070 further indicated that there was a belief in the LRA that UPDF and NRA forces were using witch doctors during battles.

The witness explained that they were told that they were fighting “under the protection of the Holy Spirit,” which made it difficult for him to understand “which one was stronger” between the Holy Spirit and the witch doctors.

Witness P-0070 shared with the Court that when they were in the middle of battle they would sometimes believe in the existence of all the spirits; in particular when they succeeded in battle.

Finally, Witness P-0070 assured that he had not met anybody in the Ongwen’s Defence team before coming to The Hague to testify.

The trial in the case of Dominic Ongwen will resume tomorrow, Tuesday 19 September 2017, with testimony of the 31st Prosecution witness, Witness P-0097.

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