Kwoyelo kicks off defence with tale of his abduction

Thomas Kwoyelo talks to his defence lawyers before the International Crimes Division Court sitting in Gulu District yesterday. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • The International Crimes Division court resumed on Monday with a dismissal of an application filed by Kwoyelo’s lawyers.

On Tuesday afternoon, former Lords’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo detailed to the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court how he was abducted and recruited into the LRA’s fighting force.

In an afternoon session of the Tuesday sitting, a whole-smiling Kwoyelo told ICD judges that while he was abducted at 13 on his way back home from Pabbo Girls’ Primary School, where he was in P3, it took only a day before the rebels initiated him into the army’s full force.

“I was asked to stop and questioned what I was running from. And I told them that I was from school and returning home. So they asked me why I was running, and I said I ran because I was hungry. One of them pulled me to the roadside and gave me biscuits to eat since I was hungry,” he said.

 While he ate the biscuits, Kwoyelo recounted to the court that he was then asked by the rebels to help them navigate the villages.  Along the way, he said he hear them [rebels] contemplate if he could be released to return home since his friends had seen how he was intercepted.

 “We moved with them and then we found some people in some homestead with armed men. In my memory, the people who abducted us were about 15 in number, but the abductees could have been about 60 or 80,’’ he said.

“The team that abducted me was headed by one called Okwera Dulmony. I heard that name when he was being instructed to command our movement,” Kwoyelo added.

 According to him, his group moved eastward from Pabbo Town until they crossed the Unyama River and settled for a night at a nearby abandoned homestead.

“Upon arriving at the home, the abductees were tied with ropes in groups of 10. Our group was then locked up in a grass-thatched house from where we were served raw cassava and groundnuts,” he said.

“That same night, they served us meat and mashed cassava to eat. It was served in three bowls for the 10 of us. We ate and slept in the same home.’’

 According to Kwoyelo, the group under Okwera Dulmony continued the move at daybreak until they arrived at another home and assembled.

“At that point, I heard them ordering 20 litres of water to be available, and all of us the abductees were asked to step inside the yard. They then brought cans of shea butter and a unique soil like lime, which they mixed with water into a concoction and put there,” he said.

 He recalled that the concoction was referred to as camouflage and that all the abductees, irrespective of their sex, were ordered to strip their chests to be smeared with the concoction.

 “Once we stripped off our shirts, those people came and started marking us with the shea butter and smearing it on each of us while making a sign of the cross on our chests, belly, back, forehead, on our feet, and in our palms. That camouflage concoction was smeared on us almost on every part of our bodies, including faces and buttocks.”

Once the smearing was done, we (the boys) were instructed to stay for three days without bathing or washing any part of our bodies, while the girls were to stay for four days without doing the same, Kwoyelo said.

 “ I don’t know the truth behind that ritual [shea butter and concoction] that we underwent. I don’t understand why they made us not bathe for three days.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Michael Elubu, one of the four justices of the ICD court sitting at the hearing, rolled Kwoyelo through the 78 counts he has been charged with.

The charges read included aggravated robbery, contrary to sections 272 and 273 of the Penal Code Act; murder as a crime against humanity and a violation of Article 188 of the Geneva Convention; attempted murder; imprisonment as a crime against humanity; and kidnapping with intent to murder, among others.

 The ICD court on Monday resumed with a dismissal of an application by the lawyers of Kwoyelo in which they sought to guide Kwoyelo during the defence.

In the ruling read by Justice Duncan Gaswaga, the judges reasoned that it was immoral to have Kwoyelo involve his lawyers in guiding or leading him while making his statement after his lawyers told the court that he had decided to make an unsworn statement. 


The long trial conducted at Gulu High Court Chambers is being presided over by Justices Gaswaga, Stephen Mubiru, Michael Elubu, and alternate judge Andrew Bashaija.