Ongwen ICC trial: Ugandans have other things on their mind

Like High Court in Gulu, Uganda
Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 09:32

By Janet Anderson

There are only two months to go before Dominic Ongwen, the former Lord's Resistance Army commander in Uganda, starts his pre-trial process at the ICC. He’s charged with more counts than any other person so far at the ICC. The events - the massacres, rapes and attacks that he is linked to - are appalling. His case has been on the ICC’s books for many years. 

If you take Christmas out of the equation, it’s really only a couple of weeks until the ICC judges start hearing what the prosecutor is alleging against Ongwen. But is Uganda buzzing with expectation? Are the newspapers full of questions about what will happen, how many witnesses, what the evidence will be? Well, no…

Upcoming elections more important

The fact of the process against Dominic Ongwen happening in the Hague seems as remote as snowfall for Kampalans. The Ugandan political and media agenda is dominated by the elections. Last week, the campaign kicked off. There are several candidates for president. The ruling party now faces some real opposition. There’s been violence in some of the primaries. Everyone is looking forward to February and the chance to vote. That’s the buzz. That’s the focus of the moment. 
If you travel north to Gulu, one of the epicentres of the LRA's campaign of violence, there’s also minimal interest in Ongwen and his upcoming trial. In Ongwen’s home area, also in northern Uganda, his close relatives are concerned. But in Gulu, the crisis is over. There’s no sign nowadays of the thousands of children who once commuted into town and slept on the steps of buildings every night to keep safe from the rebels. Even the local court house, which could, potentially have been the site for Ongwen’s appearance is its usual sleepy self.

Getting wounds treated a bigger priority

In fact, the lack of interest is not surprising. If you’d faced years of attacks and uncertainty, been herded into camps, were now back home in your village, still suffering from the trauma of war and struggling to keep yourself and your family fed and educated, would you care about what’s happening in The Hague? Like the people I heard about from NGOs which work on the ground, I think I would be focused on getting my wounds treated or getting some support for my family. Justice isn’t only what happens in courtrooms, especially when they're so far away. Justice is also an acknowledgement of harm done and reparations to help people get on with their lives again. Let’s hope that justice is not as remote as snowfall. 
Lead image: High Court in Gulu, Uganda (Photo: Janet Anderson/Justice Hub)

Dominic was abducted forcefully,but he came out willingly and calmly,he already asked for forgiveness acknowledging his crimes.But ask your self before judging the innocent man,you are abducted and watched horror happens to the people you know,some even your relatives and friends at a age of 10, completely brain washed at that age,Is there anything good you can do in such a situation??

Saturday, November 14, 2015 - 04:41
Nyero julius

Ongwen must face trial why did he wait to be abducted and yet he had an oportunity to come back home before that pressure was mounted on them.Many abductees came back home and were given AMNESTY,they should give him either life imprisonment or death cos we have lost our innocent people and back wordness in development of our region.

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 19:23

By gone is by gone leave me alone.

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 19:04

Ongwen should be left free for Uganda government have done more worst intentionally than Ongwen who was doing under instructions for the fear of his life; look at the way police are killing innocent civilians, the UPDF shooting people from their own land in Apaa, and many more cases

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 17:46

Actually ongweni should be under sentenced c'z he waz 2 avert from KONY'S family

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 14:39
olam jimmy

uganda gov't is suppossed to be asked if it protected the children like me and ongwen .If it did so how did we end up in the hands of the rebel.icc should understand that once abducted you had to follow what your told to do if not you loose life.

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 10:48
Harriet Ssali

Ongwen has already admitted to the crimes but the real issue is the one of being abducted as a child and whether that fact exonerates him. That's it.

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:27

We MUST first of all understand how Ogwen ended up in the hands of LRA,was it his own interest or he was abducted? How many children got missing by the time Ogwen was also missing? How did Ogwen came out of the bush? We Ugandan's we MUST get United and we follow our mind,understand,forgive and forget what Ogwen did out of his abductee orders.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 18:36

Ongweng should be freed b'se the government of Uganda is the one to be responsible for Ongwen's crimes.Why didn't they protect Ongwen who had no where to run for rescue or safety.there only work is to keep their family members and realatives.So in Uganda if you don't bread they will not give you butter.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 16:08

its true Ongwen was abducted and what he was doing in the bush was to kill rape among others just for afear of his life but for the people who are saying that he should be freed but where is he going to setle?

Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 14:56