LRA’s Kwoyelo asks court for special meals in prison

Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala on August 21, 2023. PHOTO/JULIET KIGONGO

What you need to know:

  • On August 21, 2023, ex-rebel Thomas Kwoyelo was appearing in court for mention and to ascertain if he can be acquitted or has a case to answer. 

A former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander has asked court to provide him with a special diet, claiming that he has developed ulcers in prison.

On Monday, ex-rebel Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni appeared before the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court’s registrar Beatrice Atingu as he is faced with 92 counts of alleged killing of civilians during a two-decade insurgency in Uganda’s northern region.

“He (Kwoyelo) has faced a longer trial and has been on remand for 15 years now with ulcers although it is being managed in prisons. He has told me that he has been unable to get the diet as recommended by the medical team,” Kwoyelo through his lawyer Geoffrey Anyuru told court.

“We request the court to provide any [diet] support if it can,” he added.

Kwoyelo was appearing in court for mention and to ascertain whether the State’s skeleton submissions in the case were made, pending the written submissions in regards to if he can be acquitted or has a case to answer- following the closure of the prosecution case with 53 witnesses.

However, prosecution led by Richard Birivumbuka and the victims’ lawyer said they had not made the submissions and asked for case adjournment.

Atingu adjourned the case to September 18 with orders that Kwoyelo be presented at the High Court in Gulu instead of the ICD in Kampala.

“I was given instructions by the head of the panel, Justice Michael Elubu, to have the matter held at Gulu at the next hearing of the case,” Atingu said.

Other justices involved in the case are Stephen Mubiru and Duncan Gaswagga but court has also appointed Justice Dr Andrew Bashaija as an alternate judge in this case.

The charges against Kwoyelo include murder, hostage-taking, contrary to article 3 (1) of the Common Geneva Conventions, kidnap with intent to murder, pillaging, aggravated robbery, cruel treatment, violation of personal dignity, torture and rape, among others.

The Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) states that Kwoyelo underwent basic military training that saw him quickly rise through the LRA ranks to become a colonel, a rank he held at the time of arrest.

He is alleged to have committed the crimes between 1992 and 2005 when he was a military commander in the LRA- and held several positions including commander of operations, director of military intelligence and being in charge of the LRA sick bays.

It’s alleged that Kwoyelo, while in Kilak District, carried out widespread killings of civilians, abductions and destruction of property. 

“On the May 9, 1994 or thereabout, the accused (Kwoyelo) commanded an armed attack in Abera Village, Parubanga Parish, Pabbo Sub-county in Kilak. Along with his forces, he raided several civilian homes,” the indictment reads in part.

“In the course of the raid, the accused (Kwoyelo) and his forces tortured, maimed and abducted a number of civilians including David Akena, Patrick Ochen, Menya Odong, John Ouma, Patrick Ojok, Charles Okot, Simon Ogena and others,” the amended charge sheet further reads.

Among the pieces of evidence, the DPP provided include postmortem reports, police reports and other documents, photographs, correspondences, written statements of witnesses, and newspaper extracts.