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Uganda puts former LRA commander on trial 0

Uganda’s ability to try those accused of war crimes by itself will be put to the test in August, when Thomas Kwoyelo becomes the first former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, to appear before magistrates in the country, Bill Oketch of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting writes from Gulu.

Kwoyelo, 37, was captured in the Democratic Republic of Congo in March, following a gun battle between the Ugandan army and LRA soldiers.

However, in order to speed up the legal process, he is not being officially charged with war crimes, but with the lesser offence of kidnap with intent to murder.

A number of senior academics have criticised the decision to try Kwoyelo in Uganda, saying that the country does not have jurisdiction over war crimes and that the International Criminal Court, ICC, would be better placed to deal with the case.

In December 2003 Uganda became the first country to refer a case to the ICC, which in July 2005 issued indictments against Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leaders, Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen over 2,200 killings and 3,200 abductions between July 2002 and June 2004, in about 850 attacks.

In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony, head of the LRA, as well as Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen.

However, no international arrest warrant has been issued for Kwoyelo.

On a visit to Uganda on July 13, Luis Moreno, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has again called for joint action by governments in the region to arrest the top commanders of Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Moreno Ocampo arrived in Uganda on July 11 from the DRC, where he had met with local communities in the conflict-torn province of Ituri, IPS reported. In Bunia, Moreno Ocampo told Congolese, ”We are prosecuting those most responsible for the crimes committed in Ituri, but our mission is also to end impunity to prevent the commission of future crimes.”

Uganda’s LRA leaders have been moving between DRC and CAR for a little over a year, since they were expelled from South Sudan shortly after the breakdown in talks mediated by Southern Sudanese vice president Riek Machar and former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano.

At one point during those negotiations, the Ugandan government attempted to have the ICC warrants withdrawn. They were upheld, and the warrants have been blamed in some circles in Uganda and abroad for the last-minute failure of the Juba peace process.

Moreno Ocampo said these claims are baseless, arguing that Kony used the time afforded by the peace talks to regroup and re-arm his forces.

The ICC prosecutor insists all parties to the Rome Statute in the Great Lakes region have an obligation to arrest LRA leader Joseph Kony, who has been operating in the DRC and the Central African Republic since abandoning peace talks in April 2008. Uganda, the DRC and the CAR are all members of the ICC.

“I think it is important to put him on trial, not to kill him. It is important to put him on trial and expose his crimes in northern Uganda. He has committed the same crimes for 22 years. It is time to stop him,” said Ocampo.

Kony faces 33 counts of crime against humanity and war crimes including, murder, sexual enslavement, rape and forced enlisting of children.

Born in Acut-Omer village in Amuru district of northern Uganda, Thomas Kwoyelo was abducted in 1987 when he was just 15. He spent over half of his life in the LRA.

Recently, Kwoyelo told the Sunday Vision, a Ugandan newspaper, “My situation in the bush was like that of a dog and his master. When you tell a dog to do something, it will act as instructed. All orders came from Kony.”

Who is Joseph Kony

by A24 media

Joseph Kony is the head of the Lords Resistance Army. Born in 1962 in Gulu, northern Uganda, Kony led the United Holy Salvation Army (UHSA), which slowly evolved into the resistance group LRA. The LRA has been waging a campaign of terror against the people of Northern Uganda since 1987 with the goal of establishing a theocratic government in Uganda that is based on the teachings of the Bible and the Ten Commandments. Kony is one of the world’s most wanted men and arrest warrants have been issued by the International Criminal Court for him and four of his commanders. It is estimated the LRA has abducted 20,000 children as child soldiers since its rebellion began.

In the following video A24 media interviewed Joseph Kony before he left Uganda for R.D. Congo.

Download the video by A24 “A meeting with joseph kony”

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi