By Susan Kendi
On Monday, October 1, 2018, the first Defence witness took the stand to testify in the ongoing Dominic Ongwen trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A white-haired man sitting in front of a computer with two microphones in front of him, dressed in a pink Ankara shirt with elephant prints and wearing black headphones, Chief Yusuf Adek testified about his life. He told the Court how Uganda government soldiers took away livestock, destroyed crops on land farmed by civilians and blamed it on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Chief Yusuf Adek also told judges about the rituals performed for one to be a chief in his clan.
Here are snippets of the questioning Ongwen’s lead defence lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo put the witness through:
Witness: I started being referred to as Adek in 1993.I was a business person in Gulu. There was one of my friends who nicknamed me Yusuf Adek because I was being disturbed… (They asked) “Why are you always surviving?” henceforth they referred to me as Yusuf Adek.
Odongo: Can you tell Court what you do for a living?
Witness: Now I am unemployed but a cultural leader…I get money from the properties I rent out.
Odongo: You told the Court you are a powerful businessman did that business cease at a particular point of time?
Witness: I stopped my business during Obote’s second reign
Odongo: When you say you lost your farm or your farming activities?
Witness: I am referring to the war in 1987 that is after they overtook the government in 1986.
Odongo: How did you lose your livestock?
Witness: Government soldiers took away
Odongo: Can you tell the Court which government is this?
Witness: We are talking about the current government. It came to power in 1987 sometime in November. The government took my livestock.
Odongo: Is the incident of the loss of your livestock an isolated case in Acholi or Northern Uganda or it was something that was happening at the time?
Witness: It happened throughout in Acholi. All the people in Acholi lost their livestock. The government decided this matter should not have been litigated but settled out of court. Some people have been paid. I have been paid around 30 million but they have not paid me all the cattle.
Odongo: Is this thing targeted?
Witness: Based on my knowledge I know the events that took place in Acholi. Government soldiers were accusing people in the bush of taking the cattle and destroying the crops…They (government soldiers) would take the livestock and destroy crops and blame those in the bush…The most important thing in Acholi is livestock. That is what people sell, that is what they pay school fees with.
Odongo: Mr Witness, would it confirm that they (people from Teso and Lango) suffer the same fate as the people from Acholi did?
Witness: The war lasted in Acholi more than it did in other areas.
(The procedure of acquiring leadership in Acholi)
Witness: In the Lango region cultural leaders are elected in terms of competence. In Acholi region, cultural leadership is inherited and the people from your home or clan select you as a leader.
(Ritual performed) You are left with underpants and then they smear your body. They give you a cane and your wife goes through the same ritual. After the ritual, you spend three days without seeing people except those that smeared you… The person is brought to cook for you for the three days…If the person who cooks tastes the food you go mental…The person is watched…The three days you are in the house you don’t have a bath so after the three days, you take a bath…Before you go through the ritual they bring an antelope from the bush and it hit the house, the people from your clan respect you.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Do you recall when you were initiated?
Witness: It was in 2013 on the 3rd of July
Odongo: Which clan of the Acholi do you lead as a chief?
Witness: I am from the Pageya Labanya clan
Odongo: Do you have any totem that identifies your clan from other clans of Acholi?
Witness: For the Acholi, the totem is the elephant it is decorated on the outfit I am wearing. For the Pageya they use an antelope.
The Defence witness continues to testify on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.