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Brigade sickbay was disbanded for lack of people to collect food, witness tells ICC

Journalists for Justice / 30 January 2018

 By Susan Kendi

On Friday, January 19, 2018, Witness P-145 told the International Criminal Court that members of the sickbay were disbanded, scattered and distributed in other groups because there were a few patients there.

He added that whenever there was food shortage, Tulu would wait for any Lord Resistance Army group’s passing by and ask them to assist in finding food.

In cases where there was no convoy passing, the fighters in the sickbay would go and look for yams and cassava in people’s gardens.

Here are excerpts of the cross-examination by defence lawyer Thomas Obhof of Witness P-145, who had testified for the prosecution in the 70-charge trial of LRA commander Dominic Ongwen:

Obhof: Good morning, Mr Witness. I hope you had a good night. Did you remain in Control Altar [throughout] the rest of your time in Sudan?

Witness: No, I did not remain in Sudan for the whole period.

(The Court goes into a private session and resumes with Obhof questioning the witness)

Obhof: When you first went to Sudan until Operation Iron Fist, did you stay in Sudan or you went back to Uganda?

Witness: When still in Sudan we would come to the border, collect food, then go back.

Obhof: During this time, was the LRA provided food by the Sudanese government in general?

Witness: I would see the weapons given but the food was not adequate.

Obhof: In the 1990s, when in Sudan, did the people cultivate their gardens?

Witness: Yes. Some would farm, some would not. Those close to Juba would not farm, those that farmed were on the border towards Kitgum but most times the rebels would harvest people’s food and go with it back to their camps.

Obhof: Did you return to Uganda in the 1990s?

Witness: No.

Obhof: During Operation Iron Fist, Kony transferred you to Gilva [Brigade]. Do you know why?

Witness: It was part of the normal shift. I went and started work.

Obhof: At this time did you receive a promotion?

Witness: I was given the rank of  second lieutenant.

Obhof: Explain why you received this promotion?

Witness: The promotion is given based on the time you have spent in the bush. I had spent over 10 years in the bush. I was given this rank based on that.

Obhof: Do you remember at that time who was your brigade commander?

Witness: Okello Trigger, but it did not take long before he was replaced.

Obhof: Does the name Michael Achai sound familiar, Mr Witness?

Witness: Michael was not a brigade commander, but a battalion commander.

Obhof: After you were transferred to Gilva, how long did Okello Trigger remain the brigade commander?

Witness: That story I am unable to explain. I cannot recall who was where at what time. It was a long time ago.

Obhof: Did Okello remain a brigade commander for a long time after you were transferred?

Witness: I do not know that.

Obhof: When was Ocan Bunya your brigade commander?

Witness: I recall Bunya but he was not there at the time.

Obhof: But after sometime, Bunya became the brigade commander is that correct?

Witness: In the LRA there are several smaller groups. They don’t stay together, they split. When he became Commander, we had been chased  by government fighters to Sudan and came back to Uganda.

Obhof: When you were transferred to Gilva were you in Sudan?

Witness: I was still in the Sudan

Obhof: After how long after your transfer did you enter back to Uganda?

Witness: I do not recall how long it took.

Obhof: You mentioned the name of your battalion on Wednesday. Was it also called the  Second Battalion, Mr Witness?

Witness: Yes. It was also called Second Battalion.

Obhof: Around the time you re-entered Uganda, did [Joseph] Kony also go to Uganda as well?

Witness: I did not see Joseph Kony since when we went back, people were in splinter groups.

Obhof: Did Trickle Brigade stay in Sudan or did it re- enter Uganda?

Witness: I do not know about that. When we came to Uganda we were in Otti Vincent’s group and crossed to Uganda but Kony was not in Uganda that day. I don’t know if he entered Uganda or not.

Obhof: When the splitter groups entered Uganda did some go back to Sudan?

Witness: I do not know if some people went back.

Obhof: (Reading a name to the witness) Opiyo Marcus?

Witness: Opiyo Marcus was in the bush

Obhof:  We need to go into private session for one or two minutes

(The Court goes on private session and resumes with Mr Obhof questioning)

Obhof: Mr Witness your injury occurred during a fight between the LRA and UPDF?

Witness: It was not during the battle. We encountered them and then as we were fleeing they shot at us.

Obhof: Mr Witness, why were you assigned to sickbay in Gilva Brigade?

Witness: I was assigned in the sickbay. Initially, I carried someone who is sick and took him there unfortunately, he passed away. I continued staying in the sick bay, then I was injured and went to the sickbay and continued to stay there.

Obhof: You were assigned to protect people there, right?

Witness: Yes.

Obhof: During Lukodi, you were a lieutenant, is that correct?

Witness: That’s correct.

Obhof: The sick bay you were in did it remain stationary?

Witness: No. It was not stationary at one point, it was mobile. If you stayed in one place for a long time and the government would know your location and attack you.

Obhof: Your sickbay was meant for people in the LRA from Gilva brigade, is that right?

Witness: A sickbay is where they take the sick and the injured are treated. So any patient taken there whether from another brigade or battalion that would be treated but most of them were from Gilva. But if anyone came from Sinia, Stockree got injured and you take them, they would treat and provide for them.

Obhof: Within the sickbay, were stationed you were one of those protecting the sick from Gilva?

Witness: Yes it was mostly people from Gilva brigade.

Obhof: Meaning there were people protecting them from other brigades?

Witness: Yes, that’s correct.

Obhof: During Lukodi, Ochan Bunya was the brigade commander of Gilva. Is that correct, Mr Witness?

Witness: At the time Ochan Bunya was the brigade commander of Gilva but Sinia brigade was the one that attacked Lukodi. They came to Gilva, collected people to go and collect food.

Obhof: In sickbay was there food shortage?

Witness: Yes there was always food shortage.

Obhof: To who, Mr Witness, would Olako Tulu complain to, due to lack of food in the sick bay?

Witness: When there is food shortage, he would not complain. He would wait for the group by passing and ask them to help to provide us with food. If there was no convoy, we would go and forage food such as yams and cassava in the civilian gardens.

Obhof: The sickbay you were in was disbanded in 2005 due to lack of availability of people to collect food?

Witness: No. It was disbanded since there were not many people in the sickbay. So they were scattered and distributed in other groups.

Obhof: (Reading a document) You told the prosecution in 2006 that the sickbay was disbanded due to lack of people to collect food.

Witness: All things I wrote are those that happened in the past. As I sit here there are things that happened in 10 or 12 years ago. So no matter who you are you might be confused.

The hearing continues on Monday, January 22, 2018 with Witness P-200 testifying in the ongoing Dominic Ongwen trial.

 

 

 

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