, KAMPALA, Uganda, Jun 3 – There are increasing calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute President Yoweri Museveni for crimes committed in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The ante was upped on Thursday when the former United Nations Under-Secretary General for Children Affairs Olara Otunnu met the ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, and presented a dossier of crimes Museveni and his regime have allegedly committed.
Otunnu, a fierce critic of Museveni and his regime, told journalists that the investigations should focus on northern Uganda and Luweero Triangle, the place where Museveni staged his guerrilla war in the early 1980s and Mbarara, Museveni’s home place where hundreds of Muslims were massacred allegedly by Museveni-led guerrillas during Idi Amin’s regime.
The former UN diplomat, now turned opposition leader heading the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) said last year’s riots in Kampala in which security forces killed over 30 people should also be investigated.
The riots broke out after the Museveni government blocked the king of Buganda, Uganda’s largest ethnic group, from visiting a part of his kingdom inhabited by a Baganda sub-ethnic group.
Otunnu squarely put the war and the bloodbath in the DRC on Museveni who twice sanctioned Uganda army’s invasion of the vast central African country – in the late 1990s and early this century.
“I have already handed over to Ocampo some information and I will be handing more information and I urge other Ugandans to provide information regarding the massacres and impunity in northern Uganda and Congo,” Otunnu said.
He added: “In terms of information we have tonnes and tonnes, and several lorries full of information. It is not lack of information but the ICC should simply start investigating Museveni.”
Otunnu said Museveni has a history of what he termed “a trail of blood, massacre and impunity”.
“There is a trail of blood, massacre and impunity that follows Museveni from the anti-Amin period through to Mbarara, Luweero, northern Uganda and Congo,” said Otunnu. “A long trail of blood, massacre and impunity follows Museveni wherever he goes.”
Otunnu said the so-called camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda are actually “concentration camps” with the sole aim of annihilating the people.
He wondered why the international community vehemently opposed the Burundi government from creating similar camps and yet turned a blind eye in Uganda’s case.
The tough-talking Otunnu said the camps were a death trap in which 1,500 people died weekly, a fact corroborated by a string of research.
He reasoned that if former Liberian president Charles Taylor is being tried for crimes in Sierra Leone the Museveni too is culpable for crimes in DR Congo.
“Taylor sponsored and financed crimes in Sierra Leone that is why he is being prosecuted so should Museveni who sponsored and financed crimes in Congo,” said Otunnu.
War crimes suspects Thomas Lubanga and Jean Pierre Bemba, said Otunnu, are actually protégés of Museveni, just like Taylor trained and supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone.
Otunnu criticized the ICC of double-standards, saying while he applauded the indictment of Joseph Kony, the other side in the conflict – the Ugandan army – should have also been investigated because both operated in the same theatre of war.
“People on the ground [in northern Uganda] can tell you which crime was committed by whom,” Otunnu said. “That is why I am disappointed that up to now the ICC has not done any investigation into the consistent and long pattern of blood, massacre and impunity.”
He criticized the ICC for choosing Uganda as host of the first and important review conference.
Otunnu said although most of the crimes he accuses Museveni of were committed before the coming into force of the Rome Statute in 2002, the trails of those crimes continued well after 2002. He cited the continued deaths in the camps and the killings in DR Congo after 2002 as examples.
Otunnu’s statements prompted Ocampo to hold an impromptu press briefing in which he said if there is any evidence then the ICC can go ahead and begin investigations.
He, however, cautioned that investigations by the ICC need not be politicized, a veiled reference to the fact that Otunnu is now actively involved in Uganda’s politics and is one of those expected to challenge Museveni in next year’s general election.
Critics of Otunnu accuse him of over politicizing the alleged crimes by Museveni and his regime. However, it should be noted that Otunnu’s criticism of the Kampala regime is not new, especially that he has been consistent in his accusations even when still a diplomat.
Uganda’s deputy attorney general, Fred Ruhindi curtly said that if Otunnu has any evidence against Museveni and his regime he should, as he put it, “go to the police”.
The Ugandan government is on record for saying that they may call Otunnu to substantiate claims that Museveni masterminded the massacre of civilians in northern Uganda and DR Congo.
Victims of the war in northern Uganda attending the review conference have also called for the investigation of the Ugandan army for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda.