Uganda to Support Ongwen ICC Trial

Government has promised to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the trial of former rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Dominic Ongwen, healing Chimp Corps report.

The suspected war criminal arrived at The Hague on Sunday where he will answer for atrocities committed during his reign as a combat operations commander under the deadly rebel outfit.

LRA is blamed for the mayhem in Northern Uganda, buy information pills South Sudan and Central African Republic.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, medical State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem said “government is willing to fully cooperate with the ICC in all forms and manner including giving them access to witnesses and anything else they may require.”

He further stated Ongwen shall be availed with lawyers of his choice.

“This is important because he was abducted as a child and so the ICC should take this into consideration while trying and sentencing him,” reiterated Oryem.

He could not confirm or deny reports that government would use taxpayers’ money to foot Ongwen’s legal bills.

Lawyer Peter Magelah says the Rome statute the ICC pays for defence lawyers and for the prosecution.


“Second it is rather strange for the complainant (government) to pay legal fees for the person they are accusing,” he added.

Highly placed sources say before he defected, Ongwen was working hard for several rebels to defect from the rebel group led by Joseph Kony.

Ongwen, allegedly the second in command of LRA leader Joseph Kony, was taken into US custody on Wednesday last week.

Abducted as a small child by the LRA northern Uganda, Ongwen had grown to command the rebel group’s Sinia Brigade, which has been blamed for some of the worst atrocities committed by the LRA.

Who is Ongwen?

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the tragic story of Ongwen encapsulates many of the complexities surrounding the LRA conflict. It is a story of a child, like many in the LRA, forced to grow up in the image of their oppressors (for more, see this article).

Abducted as a 10 year old while on his way to school – he was reportedly ‘too little to walk long distances’ – Ongwen nonetheless rose through the LRA ranks quickly, becoming a major at 18 and a brigadier in his late 20s.

Kony himself promoted Ongwen, who became known for his courage on the battlefield and for carrying out brutal attacks against civilians. In 2005, the International Criminal Court indicted Ongwen on 7 counts, including enslavement, making him the first person to be charged by the court for committing the same crime committed against him.

After his abduction in 1990, Ongwen was placed in the ‘household’ of Vincent Otti, a senior LRA commander. Ongwen grew close to Otti, who eventually rose to be Kony’s chief deputy before Kony ordered his execution in October 2007.

LRA defectors report that Ongwen was the only commander who pleaded with Kony to spare Otti’s life, a move that weakened his influence within the LRA. However, Kony spared Ongwen from the subsequent purge of Otti loyalists due to Ongwen’s value to the LRA, particularly his ability to lead troops on daring missions.

Ongwen proved his worth soon after, leading a raid on a South Sudanese military garrison in Nabanga in June 2008 in which LRA forces killed 14 soldiers.

Ongwen is known as much for his volatile nature as his bravery, and some former LRA fighters testify he has risked Kony’s wrath several times. Not only did he openly oppose Otti’s execution, Ongwen also publicly stated during the Juba negotiations that he would kill Kony if the LRA leader failed to secure favourable provisions for his commanders and fighters in the negotiation table.

Ongwen reportedly also refused to join other senior LRA commanders in CAR for most of 2009 and 2010 despite being frequently ordered to do so by Kony.

Though Kony has spared Ongwen’s life, he has taken action to punish him. In May 2009, Kony received reports that Ongwen was communicating with Ugandan officials with the intention of surrendering alongside his 60 fighters.

Kony sent a large force of loyal troops to intercept Ongwen’s group, which at that time operated alongside the Duru River in Congo, while frequently crossing into southern Sudan to raid civilians there.

They split up Ongwen’s group and replaced key members with fighters from Kony’s loyalist Central Brigade. Kony reportedly also demoted Ongwen and gave Lt. Col. Binany command of LRA forces in Congo, though Ongwen remained an influential commander.

Despite all the reported insubordination – which would have likely resulted in execution for any other commander – Kony persisted in trying to convince Ongwen to join him in CAR. By the summer of 2011 Ongwen’s force had reportedly dwindled to half a dozen fighters operating between Congo and South Sudan along the Duru River, and he eventually was brought to see Kony in CAR.

Kony demoted him on the spot and threatened to have him executed for insubordination. By August of 2012, Ongwen had reportedly crossed the Chinko River and moved further north into CAR. Ongwen has a long history of discord with Kony, with many arguing he indeed wanted to defect.

Reports state that Ongwen was injured and had difficulty walking and that Kony gave Major John Bosco Kibwola many of Ongwen’s command responsibilities. Ugandan military forces reported attacking Ongwen’s group southwest of the CAR town of Djemah in August and September 2012.

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