Date set for hearing of Kwoyelo’s defence 

Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Thomas Kwoyelo in the dock in Kampala last year. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The hearing is expected to take between four to six weeks before judges write their judgment to decide the case.

The International Crimes Division of the High Court has set April 15 as the date it will commence taking the defence of Thomas Kwoyelo, one of the former commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ms Juliet Hatanga, the court deputy registrar, at the weekend said they anticipate Kwoyelo’s defence hearing to take between four to six weeks before judges can retire and write their judgment to decide a case that has dragged on for more than a decade.

The defence hearing is expected to be conducted in Gulu City.

“The Kwoyelo defence hearing has been fixed for April 15, 2024, and the court is expected to hear the case continuously for four to six weeks, resources allowing.” Registrar Hatanga said in an interview.

On December 18 last year, the same court ruled that Kwoyelo has a case to answer and should defend himself on 78 counts under the categories of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious crimes.

He allegedly committed the said heinous crimes in Pagak Internally Displaced People’s Camp (IDP) in Amuru District between 1993 and 2005.

Kwoyelo’s trial for his alleged participation in the two-decade war in the Northern part of the country has been in the court system for close to 15 years.

The Joseph Kony war that he instituted against the government claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people who stayed in camps. In January this year, ahead of Kwoyelo’s defence, the court facilitated the defence and witness counsel to traverse parts of northern Uganda in a bid to secure witnesses to defend him.

The search for the defence witnesses extended up to Kwoyelo’s ancestral home in Acema Village, Ceri Parish in Pogo Sub-county, Amuru District, with his family pledging to defend him at the right time.

Mr Caleb Alaka, one of the defence lawyers of Kwoyelo, in January this year, updated the court that sat in Gulu that his client intends to line up 50 witnesses to defend him.

Kwoyelo was one of the commanders of Kony’s LRA. He was captured by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2005.

Subsequently, he was brought back to Uganda and detained at Luzira Upper Prison where he has been to date.

While at Luzira, in January 2010, Kwoyelo made a declaration before the officer-in-charge renouncing rebellion and seeking amnesty.

In 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled in his favour for having renounced rebellion and that he deserved to be granted amnesty like other former LRA rebels who had sought the same and were released.

However, he was re-arrested with the Supreme Court overturning the Constitutional Court decision before ordering his trial before the High Court (now before its International Crimes Division).


 Kwoyelo’s defence hearing comes at time when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, the Netherlands, ordered that a section of the people in northern be compensated for the atrocities committed against them by another of Kony’s commanders Dominic Ongwen.

The same ICC had found Ongwen guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 25 years. He is serving the said 25 years in a prison in Norway. 

The affected communities will be compensated with Shs223b by the Trust Fund for Victims since Ongwen has no financial muscle to foot the said reparation orders of the ICC.