Ongwen trial provokes strong opinions in northern Uganda

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Sunday, January 15, 2017 - 16:27

On Justice Hub’s Facebook page, we asked you whether you agreed with those like retired Anglican Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II, 84, who feels that former Lords Resistance Army commander Dominic #Ongwen should be freed and absorbed back into the community after making a full confession and accepting responsibility for his crimes in accordance with the Ugandan Acholi "Mato Oput" justice process.

“As a victim, he [Ongwen] continues to be punished twice,” said the retired Bishop. Ochola says adopting the Acholi restorative justice tradition will bring more healing in the community than the trail at the ICC. “The court system, which is retributive, promotes polarization, alienating both sides," he told Urban Faith.

We got the following response from Oyet Patrick Aranya Mathew who lives in Gulu, is a student and describes himself as a Community Based Facilitator. We’ve edited it a little to make it more readable. Lots of people have liked his response and some have replied agreeing with him.

Ongwen’s trial is due to hear its first witness on Monday at the International Criminal Court, where he stands accused of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape.  

Here’s Oyet Mathew’s opinion

“I was once with Ongwen in the captives and also a relative to both Ongwen and Atong - one of the wives of [the leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army] Joseph Kony.

“It was not my will to be abducted and at one point I felt like not coming back home like Ongwen did, because we were often times told our family members were all killed by the government and thus no need to return home. It was difficult to ascertain the truth and others were forced to kill their own relatives to make them feel guilty of coming back home because of what they did.

“In my own opinion Ongwen is like any other abductees - for example, Onen Kamdulu who was also a commandant control alter brigade, [or] Okwonga Alero who is now in [the Ugandan armed forces] UPDF driving Prado, mzee Banya who was a brigadier, Sam Kolo [who was] also a brigadier and spokesperson of LRA, [or] Kwoyelo who was in charge of sickbay among others. Why then prosecute one out of many who are freely moving?

‘For example, all those I have mentioned had wives and they all came back with kids forcefully produced with those women abducted by them, which makes all of them eligible for rape case. They have all killed, hence [could face a] murder case. Please reconsider these factors, otherwise few are suffering on behalf of many - including myself - who have got amnesty. 

“Things like killing, beating, ambushing vehicles, attacking army barracks, putting landmines are all done on orders. If you are not ordered to do so and you go ahead doing it you are digging your own grave. For example, if you rape a woman when you are not entitled to have a wife, they kill you there and then on spot because people with a certain rank - say from captain onward - are given women. I was there for three years and half, but never even saw a woman naked. And if one rapes a woman forcefully, he is hit by a bullet because [in the LRA is was accepted that] the spirit has not accepted you to have sex.

“The order is given from above. Just like you always hear police defending their actions by saying it was order from above, there is hierarchy of order. For example, Kony gives an order to his second in command [who gives it] to brigade commander [who gives it] to .......until the order is executed.

“Maybe they should prosecute all the commanders from captain onwards because they were all married with kids and were allowed to give or implement a given order.

“Otherwise prosecuting Ongwen [will] be a waste of time. In my view he should be granted amnesty like some of us. 

“We the former ''ABDUCTEES'' [should] have the right to take government to court because we were not protected from being abducted, killed, properties looted...etc. by LRA.  And yet it is their core function to provide security to civilians and their properties and they failed.

“Thanks may God bless you all".

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Photo credit ICC-CPI/Flickr

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