Among all spirits that possessed Joseph Kony, “Who are you” was the most violent.
The most intriguing part of the cross examination was when witness P-0231 told the International Criminal Court that whenever Kony was possessed by “Who are you” spirit all orders and instructions issued lead to death. Even Kony himself when possessed spoke when he was fierce, his face and eyes changed.
According to Kony, the Who are you spirit was said to have originated from Congo and so when speaking Acholi it is not very clear it leads back to Congolese.
Here are the excerpts of the cross examination of Witness P-0231 by Obhof.
Obhof: What is Yard?
Witness: A yard is a place designated for prayers by Kony. He prays there alone and sometimes when important things were to be passed to the commanders, they could converge there when the spirits gave orders.
Obhof: Meaning there were restrictions on how could [come] or could not enter?
Obhof: Who is Juma Oris?
Witness: I did not see Juma Oris myself but it is one of the spirits of Kony.
Obhof: Did you ever see Joseph Kony possessed by the spirit Juma Oris?
Witness: In the year 1995 when we were in Palotaka, he was possessed by that spirit and I saw it.
Obhof: Did Joseph Kony go through any changes?
Witness: Yes, there were changes.
Obhof: Could you please explain these changes to the court, Mr Witness?
Witness: When possessed by the spirit, the voice of Kony and his eyeballs changed. He became very rude; that is the thing I saw.
Obhof: When you first saw him in 1995 at Palotaka , did you believe he was possessed by spirits?
Obhof: From how you observed those around you, did they believe that Kony was possessed by spirits?
Witness: Yes, since the message he passed on in Palotaka came to pass.
Obhof: Did you continue believing what he said even after you left the bush?
Witness: When I was leaving the bush, I lost trust and did not believe that the spirit possessed him.
Obhof: The time you started disbelieving, is it when the LRA were moving from Sudan to Uganda towards the Congo?
Witness: All that time I had some trust in what was going on. We were talking. We were going to prepare to come back. Some things started happening and I started losing trust.
Obhof: Did Joseph Kony make prophecies that came to pass more than once?
Witness: When in Lubanga-Tek and in Jebellin, some of his prophecies came to pass.
Obhof: What is Sili Silindi?
Witness: Sili Silindi is one of the spirits that possesses Kony. I have not seen it physically but I was present at the time.
Obhof: How did you perceive it?
Witness: When it (Sili Silindi) is speaking it speaks with a woman’s voice. She is not rude, she speaks calmly. She says she is a mother and when her son does wrong, she is a disciplinarian.
Obhof: Who are you? What kind of spirit is it?
Witness: It is a violent spirit. Among all spirits, it is the most violent. When it “comes”, it is very violent: all orders and instructions issued lead to death. Even Kony himself when possessed spoke when he was fierce, his face and eyes changed.
Obhof: There were other spirits apart from the three we have spoken about?
Witness: Yes, there are other spirits.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: Were you present when these other spirits possessed Kony?
Witness: Yes, all the spirits when they possess Kony, they come in different voices and you could hear.
Obhof: Did the spirits speak in Acholi or different languages?
Witness: Most of the spirits speak in Acholi but the Acholi is not very clear. For instance: Who are you when speaking Acholi language is not clear. According to Kony, the spirit is from Congo so when speaking Acholi it is not very clear, it leads back to Congolese.
Obhof: Why would people sometimes report their dreams over military radio to Kony?
Witness: That is difficult for me to explain. At that time people think that when you explain your dreams to Kony, something bad could happen to you.
Obhof: Is it a general practice to report dreams to Kony via radio call in the morning?
Witness: It is not like that, it all comes to an individual who had the dream. If you feel the dream is of importance and something might happen to you, you report it. It is not an order to report the dream if you feel that is not of importance, you can choose not to report.
Obhof: What is “Airstibilis”?
Witness: I don’t know
Obhof: Let me ask Mr [Krispus] Odongo Ayena to pronounce it
Odongo: Please explain what an “Airstibilis” is?
Witness: “Airstibilis” is a particular medicine from Obwolo: You remove the bark of that tree then smash it before working on and turning into a rope then taken to the yard prayed over then it is lit to burn to help scare away things like snake and purify the area from bad things, bad animals and spirits
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: I am tempted to say this is some kind of magic; it is almost similar to what Mr Obhof pronounced.
Witness: Could it help hide the LRA from SPLA and UPDF? It does not protect you from the enemy but unseen things like jwok. It is said it helps protect you from unseen things and snakebites.
There is nothing that can be done. Even me I prepared it. You can prepare and burn it if you believe it -- if you feel it is not useful it is not.
Obhof: Mr Witness, you mentioned Otti Lagony, Okello Ocan Odong and how they were executed. Could you give an explanation of exactly why they were killed?
Witness: Yes, I can explain: Otti Lagony and Ocan were killed in 1998. I do not recall the month exactly. That year Otti Lagony was killed he had come back to Uganda and was in the Control Altar and Ocan was in the Gilva Brigade. What I heard is that when they were in Uganda, they tried to connect with the Ugandan government so they could leave the LRA.
Later, I heard that he had ordered the abduction of women and distributed them to some soldiers, which meant he wanted to sway the soldiers to respect him as the boss. At the time of their death, I was present at the place they were killed. Otti Lagony was the “Number 2” at that time.
Obhof: Your honours, I would like a private session for about two to three minutes.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Let’s go into private session.
After the private session, the cross-examination continued.
Obhof: Do you know a person by the name Rwot Oywak?
Witness: Yes, I know Rwot Oywak.
Obhof: Could he buy things for the LRA, for example sugar, salt, gumboots and tents?
Witness: Yes. We even collected from him … Tobacco and cigarettes are not smoked in the bush.
Obhof: Could he be used for a while or could people go to him once in a while?
Witness: He was a regular contact. Many people went to him. It depends on how senior commanders organised it. One brigade would go and the other time another would go.
Obhof: Would you know if he passed information inside the UPDF?
Witness: I am not aware of that
Obhof: Did you leave Oka Battalion after you had you injury after Operation Iron Fist?
Witness: By the time I was leaving Oka battalion I was not injured, I left and went to the brigade headquarters.
Obhof: You were injured before Mr Ongwen was shot in his leg, is that correct, Mr Witness? Yes, that is correct.
The court goes into another private session before returning.
Obhof: During your time in Oka Battalion, did you see Mr Ongwen order the execution of civilians?
Witness: No, it was not there.
Obhof: Did you see Mr Ongwen order the execution of some LRA fighters?
Witness: No, I did not
Obhof: I am going to ask about Mr Ongwen injuries. When was he injured?
Witness: Sometime in mid-2003 before going to Teso.
Obhof: Was Mr Ongwen injured during a dry, rainy or mango season?
Witness: When he got his injuries it was about September or October. It was rainy and the grass had overgrown. That was after the operation iron fist.
Obhof: Who is Celestino Akori?
Witness: It was someone who was in the same brigade as me, and I do know him.
Judge: Mr Witness, do you know at what time Mr Ongwen left the Sickbay?
Witness: Yes I do. He left the Sickbay in the year 2003 between the months of August and September. Otto Gwen was the Intelligence Officer and the most senior person in Oka battalion. The second in command was Otto Ngetich, and Odong Cowboy was appointed to the Sickbay to stay with Ongwen.
Before the defence questioning on November 1 and 2, 2017 Prosecutor Colin Black asked the witness some questions on Dominic Ongwen.
Black: What was Dominic Ongwen’s position when you returned to Uganda from Sudan after Operation Iron Fist?
Witness: When we left Sudan and came to Uganda Dominic was a CO. After the CO he became the brigade commander in Sinia.
Black: Do you remember the year?
Witness: I do not remember the exact year.
Black: Was it before or after the death of LRA commander called Tabuley?
Witness: It was after Tabuley’s death.
A new witness is expected to take the stand on Monday, November 6, 2017.
By Terry Jeff Odhiambo
Gambia stands as a testament to the glacial progress Africa is making in the sphere of human rights. With the country on the mend and efforts under way to bring former President Yahya Jammeh to justice, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights could scarcely have found a better host country to hold its 30th anniversary.
The celebrations in Banjul, between November 1 and 4, 2017, come at a time of hope and restoration for the Gambia after the end of Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorial regime. Jammeh’s government was notorious for its disregard of international human rights norms despite ironically hosting the ACHPR. Arbitrary arrests, threats, enforced disappearances and torture were commonplace. There is still plenty of room for improvement. Attorney General Abubacarr Tambadou, who is also Justice Minister, told the opening of the 35th Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR that notwithstanding the various strides made by nations in the application of human rights instruments, the full enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms since the adoption of the African Charter, continues to face challenges. The Justice minister reiterated that the new government of Gambia had reaffirmed its commitment to protecting human rights and to living up to its position as the human rights capital of Africa. As recently as September 2017 the Gambia, signed five international treaties on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, including the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which seeks to abolish abolition the death penalty. In the coming months, Gambia is committed to ratifying more human rights treaties, including the Convention against Torture, and adopting a new republican constitution within the shortest time possible and developing a system of justice that can look into past atrocities and sustain its democracy. The NGOs Forum, which is usually held on the margins of the ACHPR Ordinary Sessions, is a platform for fostering collaboration between civil society organisations on the one hand and the ACHPR on the other, with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
Human rights abuses in Africa are a sad reality. The tableau of human suffering on the continent is scar on humanity’s conscience. From South Sudan, to the Central African Republic to Egypt and Ethiopia, abuses are increasingly being witnessed more than ever before. As one of the bulwarks against this depressing trend, the work of the ACHPR since its inception calls for evaluation. The promise by states and governments to guarantee human dignity and rights – through almost universal endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ever-increasing ratification of international human rights treaties – seems to have had little impact on the daily lives of millions of people in the region.
The sad reality is that the human rights situation in various African countries continues to deteriorate on the ACHPR’s watch. There has been an escalation of threats to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent, ranging from arbitrary arrests, infringement of freedom of association and assembly, police brutality and threats to human rights defenders.
Since the inception of the ACHPR, seven states have never reported on the situation of human rights to the commission. The states -- Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and South Sudan -- continue to witness some of gravest human rights violations on the continent. Twenty other states have three or more pending state reports -- including Gambia, while 16 other states have one or two pending state reports. Only nine states, namely Kenya, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger and South Africa are up to date with their state reporting obligations. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Niger are set to report during the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. State reporting procedure is a stock taking that serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and enables the Commission to monitor implementation of the African Charter and identify challenges impeding the realisation of the objects of the African Charter.
Some of the critiques that the Commission has received over time include the failure to implement its findings, such as decisions on: individual communications, concluding observations on State reports, country and thematic resolutions, and recommendations made in relation to missions to countries.
The 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR will see the swearing in of new commissioners and the exit of those whose terms have ended. The ACHPR is composed of 11 Commissioners, who are “chosen from amongst African personalities of the highest reputation, known for their high morality, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of human and peoples’ rights; particular consideration being given to persons having legal experience” (African Charter, Article 31). They are elected by the African Union Assembly from experts nominated by States parties to the Charter. The Commissioners serve in their personal capacity and are elected for a six-year renewable term.
The upcoming 30th Anniversary celebrations are an opportunity to reaffirm the values and enduring principles enshrined in the African Charter mobilize people around the continent, and take stock of human rights today in Africa.
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