By Susan Kendi
Yoweri Museveni’s half-brother General Salim Saleh’s name cropped up a third time at the hearing in the trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court.
During cross examination by lawyerThomas Obhof, who is representing Ongwen, asked Witness P-205 on March 8, 2017 about the contact Ongwen had with Saleh in late 2002.The witness said he was aware that the two were in contact though he never got to know why.
He said Saleh presented Ongwen’s soldiers with uniforms and money, but did not know their significance.
Gen Saleh’s name cropped during defence cross examination of prosecution witnesses. The first time was on January 19, 2017, when another Ongwen lawyer, Chief Charles Taku, asked Witness P-403 about a mobile phone Ongwen had and where it came from.
Chief Taku again asked Witness P-440 about Ongwen being in contact with Saleh on February 2, 2017. The questioning entailed a radio conversation between Kony, Ongwen and Vincent Otti on April 10, 2003. Taku read a segment of the transcript where Kony was explaining to Ongwen on radio why he rejected peace talks.
Kony told Ongwen that Saleh had sent Ugandan military units to attack the LRA and also asked him to write all the information down so that it could act as a reference to Vincent Otti whenever he got in touch with Saleh. Additionally, Kony had asked Ongwen if he had buried the MTN phone that Saleh had previously given him and ordered Ongwen to deliver it to Vincent Otti.
General Salim Saleh was a high-ranking military officer in the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and the half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. His name has featured in various controversies regarding corruption, including being mentioned by the UN Security Council in connection with looting natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Witness P-025, who has been assigned a legal advisor to guide him, is testifying under court protection mechanisms that include concealing his identity through voice and picture distortion, is alleged to be a former LRA commander.
He explained to the court why it took time to escape from the LRA, and revealed details of how Vincent Otti died. The witness said that he was present at the LRA headquarters when Vincent Otti was killed.
Witness P-205 told the court that the shooting of Vincent Otti was not distant from the LRA headquarters since he and his colleagues heard the gunshots being fired. He also spoke about the shooting of Okello and Otti Lagony, whom he said were taken to far-flung area since no gunshots were heard. The witness asserted that the two were dead (Okello and Lagony) due to their inexplicable continuous absence.
Vincent Otti, Okello and Otti Lagony were shot for allegedly planning to escape. He discussed the timespan within which the shooting took place in a private court session.
The witness told the court that around the time that Vincent Otti was arrested, he had been sent out to collect food in Ri-Kwamba.
Ri-kwamba is a location in Juba, Southern Sudan, where the LRA and Uganda government convened for a series of negotiations and peace talk under the mediation of Riek Machar, the first vice president of the autonomous South Sudan Government. The peace talks, held between 2006 and 2008, had been thought as the best platform for a negotiation that would end the two-decade war.
After the shooting of the three LRA soldiers, a threat was issued to the rest of the soldiers present in the headquarters: “Whoever was heard talking about what happened, the person would be punished,” the witness told Trial Chamber IX.
The witness was later arrested, subsequent to the death of Vincent Otti, Okello and Otti Lagony. ”I was actually apprehended as well. I was beaten … I was beaten because they alleged that Otti had already talked to me about escaping.”
Witness P-205 explained to Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt, who is sitting with Judges Peter Kovacs and Raul Pangalangan, why it took a long time to escape from the LRA. Prior to his abduction, in 1989 some of the abductees from his village had fled from the LRA. The LRA abductees who had fled to the village cost 22 people their lives and the village elders cautioned other villagers against hosting future escapees saying that if an individual was abducted they should bear the loss in solitude and not extend it to the village.
Witness P-205 is expected to continue with his testimony.
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