By John Ogulei
The Kapelebyong Member of Parliament has been teased by a section of Teso leaders for his role in defending convicted Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA’s) Dominic Ongwen.
Ongwen who has been referred to as a ferocious rebel commander under Joseph Kony was yesterday found guilty on 61 counts by the Internal Criminal Court (ICC).
Julius Ochen was one of the witnesses Ongwen’s defence team presented to ICC.
In his testimony, Ochen is quoted as saying that Ongwen did not commit any atrocities in Teso. According to Ochen, children abducted by LRA in Teso and were rescued only identified Vincent Otti and Tabuley as LRA commanders who abducted and tortured them.
After yesterday’s ICC ruling, the Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru laughed at Ochen in a post in one of Teso Platforms saying “Julius Ochen is going to appeal the court decision.”
Ochen is currently in court appealing against his recent loss in the parliamentary elections.
Between 2003 and 2004, LRA carried out attacks in the Teso region, which is southeast of the Acholi region. a former LRA fighter revealed to the ICC that LRA went into Teso three times during that period and Tabuley led attacks there.
He said Tabuley died in battle during the third LRA incursion into Teso. The witness said by this time Tabuley had left Stockree brigade because he had been promoted to division commander.
Meanwhile, Moses Omiat of SODDAN, the partners with International Criminal Courts Outreach Unit in Uganda said, yesterday’s ruling was a landmark and has set a precedent that those who attacked ordinary citizens will pay for their deeds once arrested.
“This case is a milestone as the first and only LRA case to reach a verdict anywhere in the world”, Omiat said.
Dominic Ongwen, who was abducted by the shadowy militia as a 9-year-old boy and transformed into a child soldier and later promoted to a senior leadership rank, faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment after being convicted of 61 offenses.
The judgment outlined the horrors of the LRA’s attacks on camps for displaced civilians in northern Uganda in the early 2000s, and of Ongwen’s abuse of women forced to be his wives.
Defense lawyers had argued that Ongwen was a “victim and not a victim and perpetrator at the same time. But Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt rejected those arguments, saying: “This case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a fully responsible adult and as a commander of the LRA in his mid- to late 20s.”
Kony promoted Ongwen to the rank of colonel after the attack. But during the verdict Ongwen showed no emotion as the verdicts were read in court.
He said that, Ongwen had no choice to deny the murderous acts by the LRA rebels but rather to embrace the murderous violence used by the LRA and make it a hallmark of the attacks carried out by his soldiers.
The Lord’s Resistance Army, which began in Uganda as an anti-government rebellion, is accused of atrocities including mass killings, recruiting boys to fight and keeping girls as sex slaves. At the peak of its power, the group was a notoriously brutal outfit whose members for years eluded Ugandan forces in the bush land of northern Uganda, where the civil war forced hundreds of thousands into camps for the internally displaced.