A fifth defense witness told the International Criminal
Court (ICC) that Dominic Ongwen was not in the eastern Uganda sub-region of
Teso when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was active in the area 16 years ago.
Justine Edeku Ooja told the court on Monday the LRA did
not stay long in Teso because the government-backed militia, the Arrow Boys,
repulsed them from the sub-region. Ooja said he became a member of the Arrow
Boys soon after the LRA launched attacks in Teso, and he remained in the
militia until he became an officer of the Internal Security Organization, one
of Uganda’s intelligence agencies.
The trial of Ongwen, a former LRA commander, is focused
on 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have
committed in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005. None of the
charges against Ongwen cover Teso. Ongwen has pleaded not guilty to all
On Monday, Ooja told the court the Arrow Boys was formed
in response to the LRA attacks in Teso, and there were only a few Uganda
People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers present in the area. Ooja said the LRA
killed civilians, raped women, and cut people’s body parts. He told the court
the LRA entered Teso in June 2003 and was defeated sometime in 2004.
He said the militia group was called the Arrow Boys, but
they only recruited men who were 18 years and above. Ooja said the group was
made up of former soldiers and civilians, and they received training and
uniforms from the government. He also said they were paid a monthly salary of
6,000 Ugandan shillings.
Ooja said he took part in a battle in Obulubulu during
which the Arrow Boys killed an LRA commander called Opio.
“He was very notorious,” said Ooja.
He also said they killed another commander known as Nono.
Ooja said that LRA’s overall commander in Teso, Charles Tabuley, was killed in
Anyara by the Arrow Boys.
“It was a very dangerous battle. The UPDF refused to
reinforce us,” said Ooja.
“Dominic Ongwen did not come to Teso. The only person who
came to Teso, according to our intelligence, was [the then LRA deputy leader]
Vincent Otti,” said Ooja.
He told the court that the Arrow Boys fought a fierce
battle with the LRA contingent Otti was leading.
“They overpowered us, but we asked for reinforcements …
That is why Otti survived,” said Ooja.
Apart from Ooja, four other
defense witnesses have testified that Ongwen was not in Teso. They are Richard
Ewicho; and Charles
other defense witnesses testified they heard Ongwen was ordered to Teso to get
LRA fighters after Tabuley’s death. They are John
Mawa Okello and Michael Okwir.
Teso is not one of the regions Ongwen has been charged
with committing crimes in. However, the prosecution elicited evidence from some
of its witnesses, arguing evidence of what Ongwen is alleged to have done in
Teso provided context to the crimes he has been charged with. Whenever
prosecution witnesses testified about Teso and what Ongwen is alleged to have
done there, the defense protested the relevance of that evidence. The defense
also denied that Ongwen had been to Teso during his time with the LRA.
Ooja told the court that after the LRA left Teso, Ugandan
President Yoweri Museveni pledged that each of the members of the Arrow Boys
would be given iron sheets and some money to purchase cement to help rebuild
“But after the war up to now, to my disappointment the
government have not honored the pledges. Those who have died in the battlefield
have not been compensated up to now,” said Ooja.
Thomas Obhof questioned Ooja on behalf of the defense.
The prosecution said they did not wish to cross-examine him. Anushka Sehmi, a
lawyer for one of the groups of victims, questioned Ooja.
“Could you tell the court whether people moved to these
camps voluntarily?” asked Sehmi.
“People moved to the camps voluntarily because of the
safety, and they knew the people guarding them in these camps were their
children, sons of the area,” replied Ooja.
“Could you describe what the living conditions were
like?” asked Sehmi.
“They were tense. Because in the camp you don’t live like
you are living in your home. You have to be escorted to even get firewood. You
have to be given water. You have to supplied with posho, beans … There was
violation of human rights … you could find soldiers could lure the young girls,
that is defiling,” answered Ooja.
“Were children able to go to school?” asked Sehmi.
“Not all of them were able to go school … Most of the
times you could hear gunshots. … There was no proper education by then,”
He concluded his testimony on Monday. The next hearing is scheduled for October 14.
This was first published on the International