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Ongwen trial: Witness says UPDF mistakenly attacked Abok IDP camp

FILE PHOTO: Ongwen in ICC

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A former member of the Amuka militia group has said that government soldiers mistakenly attacked and killed civilians and burned their homes in the Abok internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp. The militia fought alongside the Uganda People’s Defence Force-UPDF during the LRA insurgency.

Witness D-121 told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday that the soldiers mistakenly thought that the civilians were fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who had attacked the camp.

The witness was part of the Amuka militia, who repulsed the LRA fighters before they could kill anyone or damage property in Abok. He said their commanders at the time told them not to speak about what happened in Abok during the June 8, 2004, LRA attack.

Trial lawyer Sanyu Ndagire, who cross-examined Witness D-121 challenged his testimony and presented him with evidence from a Ugandan military trial in which witnesses said the LRA overpowered the army during the Abok attack.

Witness D-121 testified in the trial of a former LRA Sinia Brigade Commander, Dominic Ongwen who has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Abok attack.

Ongwen has also been charged with allegedly being involved in attacks on three other IDP camps in northern Uganda between 2003 and 2004. Other charges against him include sexual and gender-based crimes and conscripting child soldiers. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The witness told the court that he was a student when the LRA abducted him on December 20, 2001. He said he escaped in late March or April 2002.

Krispus Ayena Odongo, Ongwen’s lead lawyer and Ndagire questioned Witness D-121 about his period of abduction because what he said in court was different from what he told the defence in a December 2017 interview and the prosecution in a December 2018 interview.

During his testimony, Witness D-121 insisted that he was abducted in December 2001 and was with the LRA only for three months and anything else that was recorded in his previous interviews was a mistake.

However what was not in dispute was that Witness D-121 joined Amuka, which he described as a local defence force the Lango set up because “the LRA had defeated the Uganda People’s Defense Force – UPDF.

Witness D-121 said he joined Amuka in April 2004, but the UPDF did not train him because of his experience in the LRA. He said he was posted to Abok where there were about 300 UPDF soldiers and Amuka members.

Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt adjourned the next hearing to April 30.

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URN

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