– Kony still at large –
Ongwen was a senior aide to LRA leader and warlord Kony, who is still at large and being pursued by regional troops and US special forces.
Ongwen’s surrender dealt a major blow to the LRA’s three-decade campaign across several central African nations. He was wanted by ICC on charges that include murder, enslavement, inhumane acts and directing attacks against civilians.
His capture has been widely hailed by rights groups and the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who said it took the world “one step closer to ending the LRA’s reign of terror” in the restive African Great Lakes region.
Ongwen was abducted by the LRA as a child while on his way to school and turned into a child soldier, before rising through the ranks to become one of its top commanders.
Rights groups have pointed out that the fact Ongwen was initially himself a victim may be a mitigating factor, should he be found guilty and sentenced. READ: Ugandan LRA rebel chief Kony promotes son: army.
“The ICC has accused him, in part, of the same crimes that were initially perpetrated against him,” said Washington-based independent researcher Ledio Cakaj, who has researched the LRA extensively.
Over the years the LRA has moved across the porous borders of the region, shifting from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before moving to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into the southeast of the Central African Republic in March 2008.
Combining religious mysticism with astute guerrilla tactics and bloodthirsty ruthlessness, Kony has turned scores of young girls into his sex slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible’s Ten Commandments.
Ongwen’s troops were notorious for punishment raids, slicing off the lips and ears of victims as grim calling cards.