GULU- Even before the fate of former LRA rebel commander ‘Maj Gen’ Dominic Ongwen is known in The Hague, two families in Gulu and Amuru districts have claimed his paternity.
Ongwen, who surrendered early this month in Central African Republic, has been taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC). His trial on war crimes and crimes against humanity is set for Monday next week.
The wrangling families are demanding a DNA test on Ongwen to ascertain his biological parents.
Ongwen was among the five top LRA commanders including their leader Joseph Kony and his deputies Vicent Otti, Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo whom the government referred to the ICC for indictment on war crimes during the 20-year insurgency in the northern region. Tens of thousands were killed and others abducted into rebellion and sex slavery.
About 1.5 million people were internally displaced from their homes and herded into camps.
The family of Mr John Odong, 60, a resident of Coorom village, Lamogi Sub-county in Amuru District, claims he is Ongwen’s paternal uncle. Mr Odong says Ongwen is a son of his late brother Paul Opobo.
Mr Odong adds that Ongwen was abducted on his way to Alero-Labala Primary School in Lamogi when he was aged 10, in 1987.
Ongwen is the first born in the family of four boys. His mother Resita Lala is dead. “The same day Ongwen was abducted, his parents too were killed and we have all these events on record,” Odong told Saturday Monitor.
He called for a DNA test to resolve the controversy about Ongwen’s paternity. Mr Odong has, however, asked the government to facilitate the DNA testing.
He said in 2006, a team from the ICC took samples from him and other relatives after reports claimed Ongwen had been killed in battle with the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in 2005.
“The unfortunate part of it is that the ICC sample results have never been availed to us since then,” Mr Odong said.
Another family that also lays claim on Ongwen’s paternity is in Paibona, Awach Sub-county in Gulu District. The family of Mr Norbert Kilama Owiya, 39, claims Ongwen is his biological brother who was abducted at the age of 10 while going to school at Koro Abili Primary School in 1990.
“My brother’s name was previously Dominic Okumu Owiya, but due to fear that the rebels could trace his family members in case he escaped from captivity, he could have changed his name to Dominic Ongwen,” Owiya argued.
“We were born in a family of 10 and Ongwen was the fifth born. His abduction at a tender age robbed him of his innocence, but after surrendering, we are shocked to hear that there is another family claiming him. We are ready for the DNA test if they continue with their claims,” he added.
Mr Kilama said their mother is Ms Alisantorina Acayo Owiya who is still alive and their late father Ronald Owiya was a head teacher at Paibona Primary School.
Ms Florence Ayot, who had a child with Ongwen while in LRA captivity, says at one time he revealed to her that his ancestral home was in Lamogi in Amuru District.
She says in 2005, she and Ongwen planned to escape, but their mission aborted when Kony called him for an urgent meeting.
“I proceeded with the mission to escape and indeed I escaped. Ongwen whom I had a child with, had told me his ancestral home and when I returned indeed I found out the family existed in Lamogi,” Ayot told Saturday Monitor.
However, retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleod Baker Ochola said the paternity claims are not critical at the moment. He said the main concern now is Ongwen’s trial in ICC.
He said the government should have taken Ongwen to the Acholi traditional justice system (Mato-Oput ) to handle Ongwen’s case.
The UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said government or any other stakeholder can facilitate the DNA tests on the two families which are claiming Ongwen’s paternity.
“At the moment what is urgent is making sure that Ongwen faces trial and victims of the war are accorded justice,” said Lt Col Ankunda.
DNA test determines the link between genes of an individual to those of his family lineage.
Who is Dominic Ongwen?
• Dominic Ongwen was reportedly abducted by LRA, aged 10, as he walked to school in northern Uganda
• Rose to become a top commander
• Accused of crimes against humanity, including enslavement
• ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005
• Rumoured to have been killed in the same year
• US offered $5m reward for information leading to his arrest in 2013