ICC drops arrest warrant against dead LRA commanders

Tuesday July 16 2019

Ugandan troops

Ugandan troops tracking the LRA rebels in the jungles of the Central African Republic in 2014. COURTESY PHOTO  

By POLYCAP KALOKWERA

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has dropped arrest warrants issued against two senior commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 2005.

Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo were among the five top LRA commanders wanted by ICC over war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Northern Uganda.

Others were Joseph Kony, the top LRA commander, Vincent Otii, and Dominic Ongwen. Ongwen is currently facing trial in The Hague on charges of murder, rape, sexual enslavement, mutilation and the recruitment of child soldiers.

While addressing the media at Northern Uganda Media Club on Tuesday Maria Kamara Mabinty, the ICC coordinator for Uganda and Kenya said the court has investigated beyond reasonable doubt and confirmed the death claims of Lukwiya and Odhiambo.

“The arrest warrant against Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo have been effectively dropped because the court and the judges have satisfied themselves that those accused persons are deceased,” she said.

Ms Kamara added, “As of now for Joseph Kony and Vicent Otti still have outstanding arrest warrants. There is no sufficient evidence to prove that Otti is dead.”

It is said that three of the commanders have since died, with only Ongwen and Kony surviving. But the court recently dismissed claims of Otti’s death, saying it will take his death into account if DNA tests proved it.

Who were Lukwiya and Odiambo?

Lukwiya was the third highest-ranking leader of the LRA. He served as Brigadier General, Deputy Army Commander and Army Commander of the LRA, the last being the highest LRA rank after those held by Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti.

He reportedly died on August 12, 2006, during the LRA war against the government Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF).

Odhiambo on the other hand was reportedly LRA's Deputy Commander and a member of the "Control Altar", the core leadership group responsible for implementing LRA strategy. In 2009, he announced his intention to defect from the LRA and return to Uganda if the government agreed not to surrender him to the ICC.

Prosecution alleges that Odhiambo led a number of massacres and commanded attacks against two internally displaced person camps in 2004, leading to death of over 300 people.

Odhiambo was charged with three counts of crimes against humanity (murder and enslavement) and seven counts of war crimes (murder, intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations, pillaging, and forced enlisting of children) in connection with the two attacks.

According to the ICC warrant for his arrest, Odhiambo is described by former LRA commanders and members as a "ruthless killer", as "the one who killed the most", and as "a ‘bitter’ man who will kill anyone."

Defection from the LRA

In April 2008, it was reported that Odhiambo and eight others had been killed by LRA leader Joseph Kony during a dispute over a proposed peace deal. However, on 29 January 2009, Odhiambo said he had suffered a serious gunshot wound during a clash with Ugandan forces and was defecting from the LRA. He told Agence France-Presse,

In February 2014, it was reported that Odhiambo had been killed in October 2013. Odhiambo's body was found based on GPS coordinates provided by the man who buried him after his death. His body was exhumed on March 20th, 2015, and flown to Entebbe, Uganda for identity confirmation.

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