By Susan Kendi
On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, one of the lawyers representing Dominic Ongwen, Abigail Bridgman, began cross-examining Witness P-200 during his crimes against humanity trial.
The witness had told the International Criminal Court, that he was in the group that went to Rwara during the night, to abduct girls. On arrival, the Lord’s Resistance Army fighters were instructed to squat not far from the school. Ongwen went with other soldiers to abduct the girls.
After the abduction, the girls were put on the move, Ongwen whistled and Tabuley’s group joined.
Here are excerpts of the exchange between Abigail Bridgman and Witness P-200:
Abigail: Did you speak Acholi?
Witness: I learnt a little when I was in the bush.
Abigail: Did you know the Lang’o language before you went to the bush?
Witness: Yes, I knew a little bit.
Abigail: Could you understand Acholi by virtue of speaking Lang’o?
Witness: Not so much.
Abigail: But enough to hear conversations of LRA soldiers?
Witness: Yes, but not to a large extent
Abigail: When you were abducted you explained to the investigators that you were tied?
Abigail: Can you describe how you were tied by the soldiers who abducted you?
Witness: Can I stand?
(Witness stands up and folds hands behind his back)
Abigail: How were you tied? Were you tied to an extent that elbows were touching each other or the style police tie thieves?
Witness: I was tied at the back like this (demonstrating). When I was told to carry the luggage, my hands were tied at the waist.
Abigail: Were your hands tied behind your back when the five million shillings was taken from you?
Witness: I don’t remember, since when I was abducted the five million shillings was taken and I was given a box of drugs to carry. At a certain point, I was given sugar and soap tied in a bedsheet then when there were attempts to kill us (LRA fighters) that is when we were tied that way.
Abigail: You moved to Abia where you met other commanders. Do you remember how long it took you from where you were abducted to Abia?
Witness: I cannot remember now. I was traumatized.
Abigail: You said you were abducted in the morning. Did you arrive in the morning or during the evening?
Witness: We arrived in the daytime.
Abigail: During your time in the bush was Ongwen addressed using his full names?
Witness: Sometimes yes, sometimes Sinia.
Abigail: When you met Kony in Adilang, do you remember if he addressed Dominic as Ongwen or Sinia?
Witness: I don’t remember.
Abigail: Do you remember how other soldiers addressed Dominic Ongwen?
Witness: I do not remember.
Abigail: When you arrived at Abia, apart from other soldiers you mentioned, were there other soldiers?
Witness: There were soldiers but I remember the key commanders.
Abigail: You estimated that your group had about 1,000 people. Do you remember if Otti and Raska Lukwiya’s group had as close as that number of people?
Witness: I suggest so, even more than that since Otti was at a higher rank.
Abigail: Speaking of ranks, was Dominic wearing a rank when you met him?
Witness: Yes, at a certain point, I saw red colours at the collar.
Abigail: From the training you received at Chakwanzi, are you familiar with military ranks basically?
Abigail: How close were you to Ongwen proximal wise to hear Otti calling him?
Witness: I was next to him because I was carrying drugs.
Abigail: Did you personally hand over the drugs to Otti? What happened?
Witness: I took the drugs and saw them being distributed to groups.
Abigail: Let’s talk about Banya. You said that he was a pilot (Reading a document as a reference)
Witness: I knew that he was a pilot because he used to say that when he addressed us.
Abigail: How many times did he address you?
Witness: I don’t know but he used to perform prayers.
Abigail: How often did you pray?
Witness: I don’t know.
Abigail: Could it be okay to say that once one met Banya, they could not forget him because of his age and appearance?
Witness: He was old. He had grey hair and sometimes wears spectacles.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: (Reading a statement to the witness) You say here that sometimes when carrying out prayers he would deceive us that he was a pilot does this mean that you did not believe that he was a pilot?
Witness: I did not see him carrying out the work of a pilot
Abigail: Do you know what happened to the money taken from your house during your abduction?
Abigail: You said you witnessed various times where women were raped by the LRA?
Abigail: Do you ever remember Mr Ongwen intervening in these rapes you witnessed?
Witness: In most of the camps rape was a common happening but I did not hear directly Ongwen instructing but to give my opinion the rape was done by his soldiers.
Abigail: Since you were always moving close to Ongwen does that mean he also witnessed?
Witness: In my estimation he was not far away from where the raping took place.
Abigail: You spoke about a woman who was killed by a bayonet when she was raped was Mr Ongwen present?
Witness: That woman made an alarm and Ongwen asked his soldier to pierce her with a bayonet.
Abigail: Was this the same soldier who raped her?
Witness: I just remember him (Ongwen) giving instructions.
Abigail: When your group went to Rwara to abduct the girls do you know if any of them were raped in that manner?
Witness: When we went we were instructed to squat and our commanders went with soldiers but I did not see that.
Abigail: Were these the same girls who were distributed by Kony?
Abigail: When in the bush did you ever hear any rules regarding sexual intercourse?
Witness: I have discovered that now.
Abigail: Can you estimate the distance your group was left squatting. How far was it?
Witness: It was not far from the school since we would hear the alarm of the people in school.
Abigail: At what point did Tabuley join you to attack Rwara Girls?
Witness: After Dominic Ongwen came back with the girls, he whistled. As we were moving we realized Tabuley joined us on the way.
Abigail: Is it okay to assume that your group, the one under Ongwen, was about 1000 people?
Witness: I don’t remember.
Abigail: When Tabuley joined you, how long did he stay with your group?
Witness: I don’t know.
Abigail: You said Rwara happened at night, is that correct?
Abigail: Did Tabuley’s group move with you during the night?
Witness: I saw him joining as at that time but he was not at Adilang
Abigail: How did you know this person was Tabuley?
Witness: When I was abducted since I had learnt Lango language I was able to interact with the abductees who showed me.
Abigail: What if I tell you that Intelligence reports from UPDF show that the ones attacked the place was Okello Kapere?
Witness: I never heard of such a person
(Bridgman questions the witness on an attack where a head teacher was killed)
Abigail: Did you recognize him?
Witness: Yes, I saw him.
Abigail: Did you know his name?
Witness: I don’t remember but I saw him. I know he head teacher of Agonga Primary School
Abigail: Did you witness his killings?
Abigail: Let’s speak about your meeting with Joseph Kony. You said that you were taken to him and he spoke to you, is that correct?
Witness: We found him seated under a tree and I was taken to him. He started interrogating me. He asked me, “What is your work?” I told him, that I was a peasant.
Abigail: In what language did you converse with him?
Abigail: But you were not well versed in Acholi?
Witness: When you are in the bush you are forced to learn. He asked me my work and I told him “I am a peasant farmer” then he abused me. Then I realized I was pressing a red button. I told him that I used to have a first aid box, then he started asking me some of the names of the drugs in the box.
Abigail: At Adilang when you were meeting with Joseph Kony, you met Otti, Lukwiya and Bunya there?
Witness: Yes because it was an rendezvous (RV)
Abigail: Do you remember another commander, Okot Odhiambo, being present?
Witness: I remember but when in RV, people are in the bush you don’t see people properly.
(Defence lawyer Abigail Bridgman questions the witness on Barlonyo attack)
Abigail: Who was the top commander for the attack in Barlonyo?
Witness: We went to Barlonyo in four lines and I was in the one led by my commander, Ongwen.
Abigail: Do you remember whose homestead you in were when the LRA attacked?
Witness: I was with Dominic Ongwen.
Abigail: At that RV at Adilang did the commanders stay together or were they in the bushes?
Witness: At some point they sat together because Kony distributed to them girls.
Abigail: When the commanders sat together, where were you?
Witness: I was direct to Kony. It was not like other meeting places we met. I was taken to the high commander who is Joseph Kony by Ongwen.
Abigail: Did you hear Kony give Ongwen orders to attack Barlonyo?
Witness: I don’t recall but we went to Barlonyo.
Abigail: When you came back did you find him still in Adilang?
Witness: Yes, but in a different position since Adilang is big. People were selected to go to Adilang
Abigail: What do you say when I tell you that the attack ofnBarlonyo was led by Okot Odhiambo and not Ongwen?
Witness: I don’t know the hierarchy in LRA.
Abigail: When you came immediately from Barlonyo, did you come to Adilang to escort Kony to Sudan?
Abigail: How long did it take?
Witness: It took some time since the distance between Adilang and Sudan is big.
Abigail: When you came back from Sudan you roamed in Northern Uganda for some time before your escape?
Abigail: Do you remember how many guns and bullets you came with from Sudan?
Witness: I don’t remember the exact number of guns involved
Abigail: You spoke about Akello Sarah, when was she abducted?
Witness: I don’t know but she was abducted from Murunga Sub County.
Abigail: She found you in captivity, right?
Abigail: And you found her in Ongwen’s household while in the bush?
Abigail: Were there some girls abducted from Rwara who were distributed to Dominic Ongwen as wives?
Witness: Yes. In Adilang all commanders were given girls.
Abigail: You were asked how you knew that Akello Sarah was made a wife to Ongwen and you told the prosecution (Reading a document) that “These people don’t respect human rights. You surround their tent at night as they sleep and you hear the girls crying. To add to all Sarah Akello got pregnant and even has a child.” Is that true, Mr Witness?
Abigail: What would you say if I told you that you are confused that you were in Mr Ongwen’s group and that you are aligning yourself to suit this case?
Witness: I told you I knew of him when Otti called him by name in Abia.
Abigail: Between September 2003 and today January 2018, has anything happened to you at all? Like an accident that might have an influence on what you remember?
Abigail: Do you have any explanation why you remembered most of the statements in 2015 when you are telling the investigators but can’t remember now even when your memory is refreshed?
Witness: By then the gap between what happened and the time was short.
Abigail: Thank you, Mr Witness. I have no further questions but the lead counsel would like to ask one or two questions.
(Krispus Ayena Odongo takes the floor)
Odongo: (Reading prosecution binder) You said his hair was rastafarian.
Witness: Yes. The hair they would sometimes use to make it with soap. For him, it was not so long before I understood that one thing was important to him — he liked cleanliness somehow.
Odongo (Reading a statement) “His head was a bit bald at the top.” This is a rastafarian with hair, is it possible to see the bald on a rastafarian?
Witness: When I say the hair was like rasta-short it was short. You could see the shape of their head and if healthy you could see this line. His hair was not like others that could close the head.
Odongo: That’s all.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: Thanks, Mr Witness. The chamber wishes you a safe trip back. I would also like to thank the lady by your side. This concludes the testimony of this witness and the hearing today. We continue tomorrow with Prosecution Witness P-366.
The hearing continued on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.