By Susan Kendi
A witness revealed to have collected evidence of Lord Resistance Army fighters(LRA) that have committed crimes in during the 30-year conflict and forward it to the ICC.
Testifying in English, via video link, Timothy Nabaasa Kanyogonya, who has worked as liaison between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) since 2004, told judges during the Dominic Ongwen trial that his role was limited to responding to ICC investigations.
“I handled thousands and thousands of documents. I remember some were originals, others copies… Sometimes the evidence would come in a very disorganized manner and I had to make sense out of it,” he told the court.
His testimony came in the middle of intense cross-examination by Ongwen’s lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, who claimed that UPDF forces carried out assassinations of enemy forces.
Prosecutor Colin Black asked the witness what criteria he used in selecting what information to share with the OTP. Mr Kanyogonya said he looked out for what the ICC wanted and whether or not it had jurisdiction over the issue at the time.
If the ICC asked for information concerning a certain year, he said, he could not give that of a different year or if was requested to share information on Gulu he would not share for something from Teso.
Earlier in the day the Defence Lawyer, Charles Taku cross-examined the witness on his role, the relevance of the information that he gave to the ICC and the Lord Resistance Army (LRA).
Mr Kanyogonya told the Court that after the Government of Uganda referred the case around the conflict in northern Uganda to the ICC, the National Security Council (NSC) established the National Security committee (NSC) with a mandate to look into the investigation.
The National Security Committee brings together various actors to deal with various security matters in Uganda. The President chairs the National Security Council while the Ministry of Interior Affairs heads the National security Committee.
Mr Kanyogonya added that the Committee looked into the crime bases but he later left it to the police who went to the field to collect information.
On Tuesday, October 3, 2017 the lead defence lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo continued his cross-examination of Mr Kanyogonya. Excerpts:
Odongo: Was the government of Uganda in collaboration with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)?
Kanyogonya: I don’t understand your question. Collaboration means what?
Odongo: Tell the court whether the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] was at times fighting side by side with the UPDF against the LRA.
Kanyogonya: Your Honour, I am not competent to talk about matters of operation.
Odongo: Did you know that there was assassination of members of the enemy forces?
Mr Kanyogonya: I know a broad policy, we do not carry out assassinations.
Odongo: Will it therefore surprise you, Mr Witness, that there is evidence before this court and which was admitted by the perpetrator? During the peace talks, a UPDF soldier holding a high position planted a bomb which was meant to kill the late Vincent Otti but which exploded killing Otti’s bodyguard.
Mr Kanyogonya: I am hearing this for the first time, but even that is not the policy of the government.
Odongo: Mr Witness, after Operation Iron Fist, is it true that after the LRA were flushed from Sudan they went from Acholi sub-region to Lango sub-region and ended up in Teso sub-region?
Mr Kanyogonya: Your Honour, that kind of analysis can be best made by someone else. I don’t know if it is the flushing from South Sudan that led them to other regions. I am not competent to answer that.
Odongo: Is it true that the LRA spread in these sub-regions after 2002?
Mr Kanyogonya: Your Honour, you must be conscious and I would not want to comment on something like that.
Odongo: (Addressing Judge Bertram Schmitt) Your Honours, at this time I would like to indulge the witness. There were documents that were sent by him.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: Show us, and the witness, the document.
Odongo: I will refer to Tab 69 UGA 0025 003 page 45-47. Do you recognize this document?
Mr Kanyogonya: No. This is a statement by one Okot Peter and not me.
Judge: It was one of the documents that you processed.
Odongo: I will read starting from Tabuley: “Tabuley and his troops were to go to Teso where he was assigned to go and operate. We all followed Tabuley from Teso; there was no killing of civilians and civilians were so friendly to us. Otti called Tabuley to come to Lango where troops of various sections came together… When we came they were claiming they had fought gallantly and chased LRA soldiers from Teso. When Otti heard that, he contacted Kony. From then, Kony gave the orders that they should kill all men in Teso and leave children and women, who should be beaten.”
Mr Witness, I will not remove the protection given to you by [the] Court, but would you agree with me that in 2002 the LRA went to Teso?
Kanyogonya: That is what you have implied but the person who took the statement would be best [placed] to answer and to make an assessment on this statement.
Odongo: In your CV, at the material time, you were an Intelligence Officer. Tell the court: is it possible as the apex Intelligence Officer to get information on the operations in the field?
Kanyogonya: My core duties are to provide legal advice to my chain of command. It does not allow me to deal with these issues. That is wrong, I am not in the apex; I am in the middle. I am a middle-ranking officer.
Odongo: Mr Witness, at a certain point, you [said] in your statement that there were auxiliary forces against the LRA. Is that correct?
Kanyogonya: Your Honour, I am not sure if that is my statement but I know that there were auxiliary forces, old local defence units.
Odongo: In Teso, they were called Arrow Boys, in Lango Amuka.
Odongo: In addition to the bar, can you confirm to the court if there was sufficient man power to protect the civilians in the camps?
Kanyogonya: Mr President, I am not competent to comment about operation matters. I don’t know if it was sufficient or not.
Odongo: Did you know that Abok Camp was hosting 4 000 civilians and there were 19 soldiers, only LDO’s [Limited Duty Officers]? Was denial of food to the LRA a part of the war strategy?
Kanyogonya: Mr President, I would request that the counsel points me to the particular part he is interested in.
Odongo: Last paragraph of page 68
Mr Kanyogonya concluded his testimony. A new witness is expected to take the stand on Wednesday 4, 2017.
Would this money be part of the Sh6 billion set aside for the Internally Displaced Persons integrated into various communities at the time of the conflict in Kenya? If the answer is in the affirmative, the President’s action would not only be a violation of a High Court order, but it would also seem to be using the money as a bribe to voters ahead of the August 8 elections.
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