By Brenda Nanyunja
Cast your mind back to 2009. Soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) capture wanted Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Thomas Kwoyelo while in active battle in the Garamba hills in the DRC. His arrest seemed the result of sheer happenstance. Kwoyelo couldn’t believe his rotten luck:
“We just bumped into [Uganda’s army] somewhere, and that was it,” Kwoyelo said then about the circumstances of his capture.
According to Al Jazeera News, UPDF made no secret that it considered Kwoyelo a valuable catch.
“This man has been in the bush for quiet long. He knows the tactics, he knows the methods, he knows the sources of weapons. He has been one of our most wanted commanders. Once he recovers, then we expect a lot from him,” said an unnamed UPDF soldier.
Besides the valuable intel Kwoyelo could provide, his capture also raised the appealing spectre of finally bringing a senior member of the LRA to trial. Also known as Latoni, Kwoyelo is alleged to have become a commander within the LRA after being captured by the rebel group as a child. He is also alleged to have operated and terrorised the areas of Pabbo in present day Amuru District in northern Uganda.
Kwoyelo in the dock
Following his arrest in 2009, Kwoyelo was charged with crimes under Uganda’s penal code. Kwoyelo was also charged with violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, pursuant to Art.147 of Uganda’s 1964 Geneva Conventions Act in August 2010. Kwoyelo’s trial before the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda (the ICD) began on 11 July 2011.