The Hague, Netherlands, Jan 16 – Former child soldier-turned-warlord Dominic Ongwen was back in the dock Monday as the first witness appeared in the trial of the Ugandan ex-commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army due to last several years.
Abducted as a child and pressed into the ranks of the LRA, Ongwen has denied “in the name of God” 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him at the International Criminal Court.
In December, the former LRA commander became the first-ever member of the notorious rebel group led by Joseph Kony to go on trial at the tribunal in The Hague, for his role in terrorising parts of northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005.
The first member of the Lord’s Resistance Army to be tried at the ICC, Ongwen, said to be in his 40s, also became the first former child soldier to go before judges at the ICC in what will be a highly-watched case likely to set legal precedent.
“I am not the LRA. The LRA is Joseph Kony who is the leader,” Ongwen told the court in December.
A Catholic, Kony, came from a family which was said to be possessed by spirits, “a potentially frightening thing” for others around him, witness Tim Allen, an anthropology professor at the London School of Economics, told the court, as he gave a sombre account of the militia’s bloody history.
A self-styled mystic and prophet, Kony launched a rebellion against Kampala some three decades ago seeking to impose his own version of the Ten Commandments on northern Uganda.
The UN says it has slaughtered more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children since it was set up in 1987.
Allen said many people were fearful of Kony and his “unpredictability” and they were “brutally abducted and forced to see and do terrible things.”
Kony remains at large, believed to be hiding in the jungles of the Central African Republic, after Ongwen surrendered to US special forces in January 2015.
Defence lawyers said he feared for his life and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.