Mix Reactions as ICC finds LRA Commander Ongwen Guilty of War Crimes

There has been mixed reaction in northern Uganda following the conviction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of ex-Lords Resistance Army (LRA) Commander Dominic Ongwen.

Ongwen was yesterday convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Some in northern Uganda have described the conviction of Ongwen as a shame to the world that failed protect him from the claws of Joseph Kony’s and his brutal rebel force.

Ms Susan Apiyo, a resident of Pader District said Kony forced Ongwen to fight.According to Apiyo, Ongwen did what he did for fear for his life.

“I am totally against the ICC verdict. Like other child- soldiers who benefited from the Amnesty, Ongwen should also be considered,” Apiyo said.

David Ojok who hails from Ongwen’s village Coorom in Amuru District said the judges erred in convicting Ongwen.

“Ongwen should be released and integrated into the community. He was trained and turned him into a killer. He simply obeyed commands. I blame government for his abduction because they (government) failed to protect him. If government had protected him, Kony could have not had the opportunity to abduct him and train him,” Ojok said.

Samuel Omonya, a resident of industrial area in Gulu City also asked court to forgive Ongwen. Omonya said if Ongwen is found guilty, then it is an exoneration for the government forces who were a party to the brutal conflict that left most of the population of northern Uganda displaced and thousands killed.

Ambrose Oola, the Prime Minister Ker Kwaro Acholi, the Acholi cultural institution described Ongwen’s case as complex. Oola said the war brought a lot of sufferings to communities in northern Uganda adding those who committed crimes should be held accountable.

However, he noted that the guilty verdict against Ongwen should be an eye open as far as transitional justice questions are concern.

On her part, Ms Maria Mabinty Kamara, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Coordinator for Uganda said the verdict is a relief for victims of the atrocities committed by Ongwen and Joseph Kony, the LRA fugitive leader.

Ms Kamara noted that conviction of Ongwen will serve as a warning to those who think they will get away with impunity.

On Thursday, Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Ongwen guilty for a total of 61 comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between July 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005.

Prosecution presented 116 witnesses, seven of whom were Ongwen’s wives, 10 Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF, former rebels and LRA captives among others.

Ongwen, the first LRA Commander to appear at The Hague was charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the attack on four camps for internally displaced people (IDP): Lukodi, Abok, Pajule, and Odek.

The verdict may be appealed by either party to the proceedings within 30 days after the notification of the Judgment.