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Ongwen still my boss, my friend and my brother – witness tells court

Journalists for Justice / 11 May 2017

By Susan Kendi

A witness at the ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity at The Hague shocked the International Criminal Court when he admitted that if he met former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen, he would still regard him as his boss, his friend and his brother.

Witness P-0142 said it was not within his power to claim whether Ongwen was a good or a bad person.

Defence lawyer Thomas Obhof had revisited a question prosecution counsel Adesola Adeboyejo had asked the witness and elicited a response that referred to Ongwen as his brother.

 “(Ongwen was) a people person. He would talk to people and stay among them. He shared laughter and jokes,” the witness said under cross-examination.

He cared about people, especially when he was still a low-ranking soldier,” Witness P-0142 told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on May 9, 2017 in response to questions by lead defence lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo.

Witness P-0142 extensively described Ongwen’s personality to Judge Bertram Schmitt (presiding), Judge Peter Kovacs and Judge Raul Pangalangan, saying that when he rose up the ranks of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), there was some change in his character since he had several responsibilities.

The gap between Ongwen and his fighters was conspicuous and he would not even get close to Ongwen, but that he retained his “goodness.”

Witness P-0142 is testifying under protective court measures, which include voice distortion, face image pixilation and being referred by a pseudonym. He has additionally been assigned a lawyer, Julius Von Bone, to guide him during his testimony especially when testifying on sensitive matters that might cause him to incriminate himself.

Mr Obhof questioned the witness on the ranks of four former LRA fighters -- Kenneth Bania, Sam Kolo, Onen Kabule and Odongo Acellam on whether they were prosecuted or free.

Kenneth Bania held a more senior rank in the LRA than Ongwen; Sam Kolo was also in a senior position and worked with the LRA supreme leader, Joseph Kony, while Onen Kabule, commonly referred to as Onen Kamdulu, held the same rank as Ongwen but Odongo Acellam was higher in the hierarchy since he was Kony’s aide-de-camp.

Regarding Kenneth Bania and Sam Kolo, the witness told the court, “…The way I see they are free. They are free to move around and do anything.”

Witness P-0142 said Odongo Acellam was living freely in Uganda and had not been prosecuted for any atrocities he committed while in the bush but said he he had heard on the radio that Onen Kabule was accused of committing atrocities after pulling out of the LRA though the witness was not sure whether or not he was still in prison.

Mr Odongo revisited the relationship between Ongwen and the LRA boss Joseph Kony and his Deputy Commander Vincent Otti, who is deceased.

According to the Former Intelligence Officer, the relationship that Dominic Ongwen and Joseph Kony had was ineffable. Witness P-0142, a former LRA intelligence officer, said that Ongwen frequently found himself in trouble with Kony and was at times jailed. Ongwen did not have any problems with Vincent Otti when the witness was still in the LRA.

Otti’s death had been known for a while but remained a rumour until Witness P-0205 testified on March 8, 2017 how LRA fighters Vincent Otti, Otti Lagony and Okello were shot dead for attempting to escape from the bush.

Witness P-0142 completed his testimony on Tuesday May 9, 2017 as the hearing took a break and resumes on May 29, 2017.  Witness P-0314 will begin testifying before the same judges.

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