Ongwen deserved amnesty

Thursday January 29 2015

By Dan Okello

Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen’s appearance in the International Criminal Court (ICC) contradicts President Museveni’s recent remarks against the ICC. Speaking in Nairobi, Kenya in December, 2014, Museveni said African States should quit the ICC because “it unfairly targets Africans”.

Back to Ongwen’s trial, I think investigations into the war crimes in northern Uganda left out some of the key evidence on crimes committed by both sides in the conflict – the LRA and UPDF. Atrocities committed by the UPDF should also be handled by the ICC. It is a big omission not to investigate them.

The trial of Ongwen is going to mark the beginning of truth-telling, detailing how the abducted children in northern Uganda suffered. The NRM government failed to protect the people of northern Uganda and their property, which is a constitutional right. In Lango and Acholi sub-regions, armed gangsters looted the entire livestock population as if there was no government to protect the people. To date, the NRM government has not compensated the victims who lost their animals in the raids.

More than 90 per cent of the LRA fighting force comprises abducted children because the NRM government failed to protect them. As leaders from the then war-affected regions, we were pushing for dialogue with the LRA because we never wanted innocent children to be killed by the LRA or the UPDF during their clashes. The abducted children who attempted to escape from the LRA were put on firing squad or tortured.

The NRM government should, therefore, have considered granting amnesty to Ongwen, an act that would have encouraged other rebels to come back home. This is because Ongwen is also a victim of LRA adductions. So, in the spirit of the Juba peace talks, I argue that Ongwen deserves amnesty.

The Juba agreement provides for resolving cases involving LRA abductees. Also, the UPDF has not been successful in carrying out military offensive against the LRA. It is for the same reason that American Special Forces intervened in the military campaigns against the LRA.

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It is a fact that many abductees took advantage of the amnesty offer and were reintegrated into their communities.

Mr Okello is the UPC party chairman – Lira District. okellodan33@yahoo.com

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