By Susan Kendi
Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army commander, referred to Dominic Ongwen as mokiyo, meaning brother-in-law, a witness told the International Criminal Court this week.
A defence witness who testified on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday last week told Trial Chamber IX of the ICC about the conversation he overheard between Kony and his deputy, Otti Vincent, on radio call about the attack on Pajule. Otti was mentioning the names of the commanders that had arrived at his location. Ongwen was one of the commanders mentioned.
Responding to a separate set of questions on abduction of children, Witness D-32 revealed that Kony said that it is the spirit that asked him to abduct children since they don’t have too much attachment. They have no wives or family at home. Also, they easily forget and this makes it is easy to train and indoctrinate them.
Here are the exchanges between defence lawyer Thomas Obhof and the witness on Thursday and Friday, February 21 and 22, respectively:
(Court goes into a private session and resumes with lawyer Thomas Obhof asking the witness about radio calls)
Obhof: What did you hear Otti saying on radio without mentioning names?
Witness: Around the 7 October, Vincent Otti gave orders to other people in a place called Wandungu. On the 9t October, we heard bombs. The next day, we could hear Otti speaking with Kony explaining how he attacked Pajule. They had lots to talk about. Kony asked whether the people he summoned had arrived. He said that most of them had arrived.
Obhof: Do you recall those summoned?
Witness: Yes I recall those who were summoned. Can I mention their names?
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt: Yes, you can.
Witness: Those summoned included commanders like Opiyo Marcus. [In the radio call] Kony asked Otti, are those the only termites? Termite in the LRA is code for a commander. What about my in-law? Kony called Ongwen mokiyo, meaning in-law. Ongwen was nicknamed Wanyama. Otti said Wanyama had also joined him, “He is with me,” he said.
Obhof: What happened to a man who had sexual intercourse with a woman who was not his wife or married?
Witness: If the woman was married, they [LRA] would ask the woman what the problem was. If the husband was impotent or infertile, they would forgive the man but if they found the husband healthy and that you had lured her, they would kill you … If they found that you were disturbing or had sexual intercourse with newly abducted girls, they would kill you.
Obhof: Who instituted these punishments?
Witness: All orders of killing came from Joseph Kony.
Obhof: Who sanctioned marriage in the LRA?
Witness: That was Kony himself.
Judge Schmitt: Other witnesses before you testified about the distribution of girls in the LRA. How were the girls distributed in the LRA?
Witness: When women were freshly abducted, they would stay for three months then be initiated. After three months, men would be permitted to court women and the women would be given a chance to court the man they wanted. If there is agreement between the two of you, a message would go through Kony… There was no forceful distribution of women. Those that were forcefully distributed were small girls that were not of age and they were given out to senior commanders until they were ready. If a senior commander was found to have committed sexual offence, he would be punished or even killed.
Judge Schmitt: What happened was the essence of the three months?
Witness: If the woman is pregnant, it will show and she will be released. If she has infections, it would show and she would be helped … Women who were breastfeeding could not be abducted by the LRA.
Obhof: What happened to someone whose husband died in the battlefield?
Witness: She is given six months to mourn her husband and during this time, she would not be allowed to court anyone. After the six months she would be cleansed, a cleansing that was different from the initiation one, then she would be allowed to Court anyone she wishes.
Obhof: When in the bush did you have any wife or wives?
Witness: I had a wife.
Obhof: Could you explain the process through which she became your wife?
Witness: When they were freshly abducted, they stayed for three months then they were taken to help and work in the sick bay. At that time I was at the sickbay. When they arrived, I started courting her and she became my wife. Since we both lived in the sickbay we lived together … The second woman who became my wife had lost her husband in battle but the man had left the woman pregnant. I took over the woman since the husband who died, came from the same village as I. I asked the commander saying, “This is my brother’s woman, let me look after her.” The commander accepted and she became my wife.
Obhof: How many wives did Kony have?
Witness: Kony had about 30 wives.
Obhof: Did you attend the rendezvous (RV) of Pajule attack in October 2003?
Witness: No, I was not there.
Obhof: Your honours, I will have to ask one question in private session.
[Witness explains to the court that a lady that went to Pajule attack told her what happened]
Obhof: Do you remember any of the officers she told you that went to the attack?
Witness: Yes, I do remember.
Obhof: Could you tell the court which names you heard?
Witness: She said the one who led them to the battle was Yadin Yeko and at the time he was coordinating with Otti. The other commander who went was Onen Achiero Okot. The junior commander who supported Yadin and went to Pajule was Lukwiya Raska … For them [the group in which the lady was] they stayed behind and met after the attack.
Obhof: When Vincent Otti talked to Kony about the attack, did he mention if Ongwen fought in the attack?
Witness: I don’t recall that but I did not hear that he was there in the attack. He mentioned Ongwen’s name as commanders that had joined him.
Obhof: Were you physically present for the Odek attack in 2004?
Witness: In 2004, I was not there I was in Palabek.
Obhof: Who was given the order to go and work at Odek?
Witness: I heard no such instruction. I heard Kony telling commanders with radio calls. He said, “My people are stubborn and needed to be punished some day.” When he said ‘my people’ he meant Odek. I did not hear him giving specific instruction for someone to do this or that.
Obhof: Did anyone come on radio call and agree with him about his people in Odek?
Witness: Nobody specifically came out but those near were from Trickle, Gilva and Sinai Sickbay and the commander nearby was Onen Onita.
Obhof: When did you first meet Mr Ongwen?
Witness: I met Dominic Ongwen when he was newly abducted in 1990.
Obhof: How common was it to receive promotions in the bush?
Witness: Not common. They would promote on how long people stayed in the bush to encourage them to stay in the bush.
Obhof: Mr Witness when you returned from the LRA and came back home how were you received?
Witness: I was received well. First of all the government troops with which we were fighting and I got injured. They captured me and started taking care of me.The commander who was in Gulu barracks talked to me and asked me not to fear and told me he would send helicopter to pick me. A helicopter picked me and took me to Gulu barracks … Both the soldiers and the community received me well…In my community people received me well until now I am living well.
On Friday, on behalf of the prosecution, Coleen Gilg cross-examined the witness on his testimony the past two day, Tuesday and Thursday including attacks on the internally displaced people’s camps.
This concluded the testimony of witness D-32. On Monday, a new Witness D-27 takes the stand.