By Susan Kendi
Dominic Ongwen’s “wife”
has denied trying to influence his former wives not to harm his case.
Witness D-13, Ayot
Florence, denied ever having received a telephone call from Ongwen while he was
detained in Hague.
“He has never called me but he called Aber Agnes [another
of Ongwen’s former wives]” saids Ayot.
This was proved to be false when a conversation between
herself and Ongwen was played in the court.
Benjamin Gumpert, one
of the prosecution lawyers did follow up questions on the private phone
conversation and seemed determined to get all his answers.
In the conversation, Ayot
is heard assuring Ongwen that she had coached and influenced “them” to speak in
“one voice” and not harm his defence.
“Is it the truth
that you have been influencing the other women to speak with one voice that
would not harm Ongwen’s defence?” asked Gumpert.
There was loud deafening silence from Ayot irrespective
of Gumpert attempting to re-ask the question.
“Are you willing to answer my question?” asked Gumpert.
The presiding Judge intervened and informed the witness
that she has the right not to answer if it will incriminate her. He went ahead
and requested that the trial lawyer Gumpert re-reads the question to the witness.
This was just the first account with three others on line.
The second intervention came right after when Ayot failed
to answer the question and he reminded her that she has right not to answer if
it might be self-incriminating.
Another, was when she failed to answer irrespective of
the legal advice offered to her and Judge Bertram Schmitt had to confirm
whether she was getting the questions.
Finally, the Judge intervened requesting that on behalf
of the prosecution, Gumpert provides assurances that Ayot would not be
prosecuted on the ground that she will be truthful. Gumpert agreed and the
hearing went on a private session and resumed with Gumpert repeating the same
Ayot Florence courted and lived with Ongwen for two and a
half years, after her husband died.
Here are some of the excerpts
between Benjamin Gumpert and Ayot Florence:
Gumpert: A sound recording was made by the
registry and I want you to listen to what you said. It is a confidential
Judge Bertram Schmitt: It looks like a public file to me is
there anyone objecting for it to be played in public session?
Gumpert: I think that since it is a private
conversation it should be played in private session.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: It will be played in private session
but discussed in public session
Gumpert: First we are hearing to voices of two
women. The first voice is [Agnes] Aber and Ongwen asks her to give the phone to
Min bak [Ayot] then we hear your voice greeting Dominic Ongwen can’t we?
Ayot: That’s my voice
Gumpert: I want you to hear what you told
[Court goes into private
session to listen to the portion of the recording then resumes with Gumpert
Gumpert: The voice we heard was yours. He was
saying that there was no problems with you but was worried other people would
Ayot: That is correct but he said like that
because we had gathered and agreed. They did not allow our children to go home.
We said that each child should go to their fathers’ home.
Gumpert: He told you ladies he considered as
his wives, that you need to be wise?
Ayot: Yes. He said we should be wise and
not mess around because there were diseases.
Gumpert: There were no mention of diseases
Ayot: He said we be wise.
Gumpert: You said, “I have influenced them.”
You meant the other wives?
Ayot: I told him I have spoken to them.
Gumpert: I have already coached and influenced
them that is what you said?
Ayot: [Ayot is silent for about 30 seconds]
To say that I taught them I said. Because I was mature and organised because
some did not know where the home of their husband was I showed them.
Gumpert: You reassured them that even though
there was disagreement there was now one voice you meant the other women?
Ayot: Yes. The disagreement, like Apiyo told
us the grandmother of the children to take her to Ongwen so we adviced her
since it was a boy child it was good for him to know his father’s home.
Gumpert: Is it the truth that you have been
influencing the other women to speak with one voice that would not harm
Judge Bertram Schmitt: If answering, may incriminate you
madam witness, you don’t have to answer.
Gumpert: Are you willing to answer my
[Goes to private session]
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Madam Witness, you may object to
answer the question if it incriminates you.
Gumpert: Is it the truth that you have been
influencing the other women to speak with one voice that would not harm
Ayot: I did not influenced them I just
advised them to take children to their fathers.
Gumpert: After that meeting you spoke to
Ongwen on telephone again?
Ayot: I do not recall that
[Refreshing witness’ memory by playing audio]
Gumpert: We heard two voices yours and
Ongwen’s. Do you confirm that?
Gumpert: And we heard you assuring Ongwen that
you were not going to say anything. Is that Correct?
Ayot: [Silence for a few minutes] I said
that I would not say anything coz we were taking of something that was taking
place at home
Gumpert: Let me move on, you also said “I told
these people not to say anything” by people you meant the other women Ongwen
considered as his wives?
Ayot: [Silence for a while] Yes
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Is the witness getting the questions?
People in the gallery: The witness is getting the questions
Ayot: What I said is that the truth lasts
because if you refuse to take your children to meet their fathers they know the
children exist. That is what I mean, the truth lasts to know their homes, their
lineage, where they come from.
Gumpert: I want to play you something you said
later in the same conversation
Gumpert: “The other people make utterance not
pleasant to hear.” Madam Witness we heard you telling Ongwen he should not
trust some people because they would make some utterance.” The other people
make utterance not pleasant to hear. Who are those people you were talking
Ayot: Let me give you an example. I was
invited we went to Ochora Walters home…These people came from the ICC.
Gumpert: Do you know Dominic?
Gumpert: Do you know what he did?
Ayot: I said nothing. A lady who was there
said, “How can you not know what he did?” They gave me a document to sign and I
refused. She was forcing me to sign the document. “You know everything he did,
sign this document.” I told her “I cannot sign this document to be a
prosecution witness.” I told her the truth always lasts. This lady was
coercive. She said let’s take the children to have DNA taken. I told her why I
should do a DNA test when the father and I know that they are his.
Gumpert: You said,” Fortunately, they don’t
have time to talk .Even if they talked we are the ones who were staying with
you.” Why is it fortunately?
Ayot: I have nothing to say.
Gumpert: The last passage is longer
Gumpert: Because you can come chat with me.I
do not know how to talk and spill the beans like other people, you were
reassuring Dominic Ongwen you would keep his secrets?
Ayot: It is not like that. Aber told me
that he also spoke the same thing with Dominic but I am shocked that it is my
recording that was recorded
Gumpert: You and Ongwen were together during
Ayot: Most times we were together but there
were times we were separated [Two years and a half period]
Gumpert: You and Ongwen loved and trusted each
other is that right?
Ayot: That is correct
Gumpert: An example when he was planning to
escape with Nyeko, he included you in his plans?
Ayot: That’s correct
Gumpert: And your position in his household
was a special one because you two had courted each other?
Ayot: Yes but he treated all of us equally
Gumpert: Of all people in his household would
it be right to say you knew him the best?
Ayot: He treated us all equally. I did not
know him any different from others.
Gumpert: You were the only one who had courted
Ongwen. You had fallen in love with him right?
Ayot: Yes. The two of us courted.
Gumpert: When you fell in love with him what
are the characteristics of Ongwen that attracted to him?
Ayot: He was a nice person. He was sociable. The way he treated
his women. This is why I decided to stay with him how he treated his wives.
Gumpert: You spoke of issue of fairness how he
treated your son from the other marriage and his women. Is that a
characteristic of Ongwen, a just person?
Ayot: Yes, he was a just person.
Gumpert: You told yesterday there were rules
in the LRA, yes?
Gumpert: And when Ongwen soldiers did things
against the rules would he judge on the matter?
Ayot: No those rules did not exist.
According to the rules you should not mistreat your wife or anyone under your
Gumpert: There were cases where people mistreated
Ayot: I did not witness that anything that
was brought to him to resolve. It was taken to the division.
Gumpert: What were the worst things about
Ayot: Well within his household I did not
witness anything bad. I did not see people arguing or fighting. The soldiers
stayed with us well. They would say good morning to us and leave.
Gumpert: I was asking about your personal relationship?
Did he ever complain that the coffee was cold or about the food?
Ayot: Whenever we brought food we would eat
together, there was no time he said that the food or tea is not nice. I did not
see or witness [such thing]
Gumpert: But you knew during these period he
was committing serious atrocities?
Ayot: I do not know the crimes.
Gumpert: In June 2012 you gave an interview to
a journalist called Samuel Okiror?
Ayot: I do not recall that
(Refreshing her memory.
A photograph is shown to Ayot)
Gumpert: That is you?
Ayot: Yes. I have had several photos taken
and this is one of them.
Gumpert: When you gave this interview, [it]
was over two years before Ongwen came to The Hague?
Ayot: Yes. Well I also have a question.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Madam Witness, only the counsel has
the right to ask questions. If you feel that you need a break let us know.
Gumpert: Now Mr Okiror, worked for Erin an
agency founded by [United Nations] UN. He explained who he was and who he
Ayot: Yes he did
Gumpert: And you trusted him to carry out a fair
interview with you?
Ayot: Well, I am not certain about that.
Gumpert: I will read to you some things you
told Samuel Okero. “If there was a means government would link me to speak with
Dominic I was request him to renounce rebellion and apply for amnesty in order
for him to come home and reconcile with the community he wronged. Let the ICC
spare Dominic and forgive him for his crimes so that he could come back home
and take care of his children. I know he committed very serious and terrible
atrocities. People were killed, raped and abducted by rebels. I fear that people
may revenge to me and my children. I leave everything to God.
Gumpert: Which are atrocities you know Ongwen
Ayot: Whatever I said what LRA did with
reference to Kony even us came home and we are stigmatized. We are fearful
about how we would raise our kids. Our plea was for him to come back. So that
the ICC could forgive him and he could be granted amnesty. We went to [Justice
and Reconciliation Project] JRP, asking them to call back
Gumpert: When you say he committed very
serious atrocities which one did you mean?
Ayot: I did not mean Ongwen. I said the LRA
committed this crimes.
Gumpert: If there was a means government would
link me to speak with Dominic I was request him to renounce rebellion and apply
for amnesty. Is that correct?
Ayot: That is correct. Because we were also
advised to plead our husbands to come home.
Gumpert: You spoke of a meeting organised at
Gumpert: It is in Gulu right?
Ayot: Yes…The meeting comprised three groups
of women who came from the bush. There were those that came back and had no means,
so they would explain and talk of their problems. Later on they also brought
men in and gave us money to start our businesses.
Gumpert: I want to focus on the meeting held
June 2, 2015.Do you remember that meeting?
Ayot: I don’t remember dates
Gumpert: There was a meeting where women who Ongwen
considered them as his wives there Nancy, Aber, Jennifer, Minabea all that?
Gumpert: There was also a lady called Vicky?
Gumpert: And she is someone you have worked
with at Women’s advocacy network?
Gumpert: This day Ongwen called you by
telephone in The Hague?
Ayot: He has never called me but he called Aber
Gumpert: He asked the telephone to be handed
Gumpert: But he mostly spoke to you?
Ayot: No.I spoke briefly and went back to
Gumpert: You were the person that Ongwen
trusted the most you knew that?
Ayot: I know he trusted everyone for he
treated everyone fairly.
Just before the
prosecution took the floor, Ayot was questioned by one of the Defence lawyers,
Here are the excerpts:
Good morning Madam Witness
Can you please state your name to the Court?
name is Ayot Florence
Have you ever been known by any other name?
names are the ones I have stated
Have you ever been called Min bak?
Yes from the bush I was called that
And how does a woman in Acholi get the name Min?
name is an honour to you for giving birth to a child and you become the mother
to the child [Bak being her firstborn son]
What happened to your mother after you were born?
soon as I was born she passed away. My aunt took care of me up to [my]
abduction. My mother was a student when she gave birth to me so I don’t know my
father for it was not indicated.
What was life like when you were living with your aunt?
was good. My cousin took me and I was living in Masaka with her. When returning
home at Opaga and Kony’s people shot at the vehicle unfortunately my cousin
died and I survived. Kony abducted me and other children…We were attacked by
government soldiers if you are lucky you jump over a dead body and run if you
are unlucky you die.
Do you remember the group that abducted you?
cannot remember the name
You said you headed east after the abduction how familiar were you with the
area you were taken to?
do not know it was in the wild. I asked my colleagues and they said it was
Did you know Koch?
did not know it was in the wild
Did the LRA make you carry anything?
a jerican and sauce pans…We would wake up at 5:00am and there were controllers.
You would come fetch water and pour as people are praying there would be some
who would be sprinkling water in the yard.
Ayot’s testimony came to a close and Judge Bertram Schmitt
mentioned that a one day
witness, D-138 would take stand on Monday, September 30, 2019.