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Uganda soldiers and LRA fighters killed the civilians, witness tells the ICC

Journalists for Justice / 28 September 2017

By Susan Kendi

Both government soldiers and Lords Resistance Army fighters killed civilians, a witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday, September 25, 2017.

Witness P-0233, a former LRA fighter, opened when questioned by Defence Lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo before Trial Chamber IX of the ICC. Ugandan government soldiers followed the rebels in three helicopter gunships at around 11 and began shooting people indiscriminately, even though they could clearly distinguish between the civilians and the LRA fighters as they were flying low. One of the helicopter gunships that bombarded people was right above them.

“I saw people (UPDF soldiers) looking from the helicopter and flying low. I have been in a helicopter before and I know when you are flying low, you are able to even see a lizard…”

“They knew they were looking at civilians. Corpses were piled as logs. They (UPDF) sent four cars to come and collect the bodies. It was not the LRA that killed them (civilians). It was the government that killed them.”

The witness told the three-judge bench that he did not know why government soldiers killed people who were not armed.

Testifying with his face hidden, voice distorted, being referred by a pseudonym, Witness 33 was also assigned a lawyer to help him avoid incriminating himself. He said the event took place in Omot.

He narrated details of how the LRA fighters crossed Palwuo road in the evening then went and encamped. The next morning, the Ugandan soldiers came and attacked the LRA group IN WHICH the witness was and they fired back at the soldiers and repelled them. At the river, they found another group of LRA fighting a different group of soldiers from those who had previously attacked them. The UPDF had planned to attack them.

The helicopter gunships flew, one in front of another, pursuing the LRA and trying to rescue the abducted civilians but they were instead killing them.

Mr Ayena revisited Witness P-0233 Friday testimony where he had stated that the LRA were receiving supplies from the Arabs while in Sudan. The witness told the judges that in his own observation there was collaboration between the Arabs and the LRA as the former offered the Ugandan rebels some reinforcement. The Arabs gave drugs and 12 horses to the LRA.

“What I saw was when they (Arabs) were giving out drugs… I also found they had given 12 horses. I did not see the horses myself but for drugs I saw… If I can clearly recall I moved with Odomi in one of the instances.”

When questioned on whether the Government of Khartoum used the LRA to fight on their behalf whereas the Government of Uganda employed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to fight on their behalf, the former LRA fighter admitted that the Khartoum government gave weapons and not soldiers to fight against the Dinka or Uganda.

Mr Ayena questioned the witness on whether there was trust in the LRA but he said there was no trust in respect to escaping as no one could be trusted but they lived together in unity.

“When you are talking to the UPDF about [Joseph] Kony and LRA structure, you spoke about Doctor Achaye,” said Odongo.

“It is difficult to talk at length about Doctor Achaye… he was very close and even at the time I was leaving he was very close to Kony… He was not a medical doctor but that was his name,” replied Witness P-0233.

Witness P-172 is expected to take the stand on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 with the prosecution estimating that it will take about three to four hours to question him. Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt notified the court that they have only two long sessions and the both sides and believed the witness’ testimony would be heard by Wednesday.

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