By: Tom Maliti
A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacked the Abok camp for internally displaced (IDP) people 13 years ago, he heard a lot of gunfire and saw houses burning.
Charles Amodo told the court that the LRA abducted him for one day after the Abok attack, and during this time he carried goods for them and walked a long distance barefoot with short periods of rest.
Amodo testified on November 20 during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander. Ongwen has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the attack on the Abok IDP camp.
Ongwen faces more counts for his alleged role in attacks on three other IDP camps, namely, Lukodi, Pajule, and Odek. In total he has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ongwen has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
On November 20, Amodo said that before the LRA attack on Abok camp residents had been told of reports of what Amodo called soldiers being seen near the camp. He said these unidentified soldiers were sighted in the evening just as it was getting dark. He said this was on a Tuesday, but he could not remember the date.
Amodo said later that evening he was awoken from his sleep by LRA fighters who entered the house he was in.
When he was taken outside, Amodo testified, “I found the whole place outside was very bright. Gunshots were going on. Fire was burning all round.”
Amodo said his wife managed to run away, but he did not because he saw many LRA fighters around him. He said he saw many unarmed civilians with the fighters. He said outside his house he was made to carry a bag of sesame, but the bag ripped and the sesame poured on the ground.
He said the LRA fighters were keen to leave and looked for a route out of the camp. Amodo said they left the camp in the direction of Lalogi. Along the way, Amodo said he was made to carry a goat.
Amodo said the following day, Wednesday, government soldiers caught up with the group of LRA fighters he was with, and a battle ensued.
“I escaped at that moment when there was that exchange of fire,” said Amodo.
He said he spent a day walking alone in the bush before he surrendered to some soldiers. He said he was taken to a military detachment at Min Jaa. He said he was then taken to military barracks in Opit a day later.
Amodo told the court that during this time he met someone called James Oringa who told him he had been part of a group of 104 LRA fighters who attacked Abok.
“And did he tell you in whose group he was at the time they came to Abok?” asked prosecutor Sanyu Ndagire.
“The group in which he was, which he confirmed to me, was that he said he was in Dominic [Ongwen]’s group,” said Amodo.
Later on, November 20, Abigail Bridgman, one of the lawyer’s representing Ongwen, questioned Amodo further about what Oringa told him.
Bridgman asked him who told him about the death of his cousin, Evelyne Akello, who had been abducted during the attack on Abok.
“My recollection, there was a boy, Oringa James, he’s the one who told me that if that was your sister [cousin] this is what happened to her. She was killed. That’s how I came to find out about this,” answered Amodo.
“And this is the same Oringa who told you about [Okello] Kalalang and Dominic [Ongwen] being responsible for the attack [on Abok]? Correct?” asked Bridgman.
“Yes, it is the same person. It’s the same Oringa,” replied Amodo.
“And it’s the same Oringa you met at Min Jaa barracks?” asked Bridgman.
“Yes, that’s correct,” said Amodo.
“Do you remember if Oringa found you at Min Jaa or did you find him there?” asked Bridgman.
Amodo said some soldiers brought Oringa in the morning.
“At Min Jaa, do you remember if you spent the night with Oringa or you spent the night in separate rooms?” asked Bridgman.
“When we were at Min Jaa, I slept … that evening on my own, and Oringa was brought in in the morning,” answered Amodo.
“So, at what point did you have this conversation with Oringa? Was it when he was brought in?” asked Bridgman.
“I had the discussion with Oringa from the barracks at Min Jaa to Opit barracks,” answered Amodo. He said after Opit, he and Oringa were taken together to a rehabilitation center in Ter-Boke.
When Bridgman concluded questioning, Amodo, Ongwen’s lead lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, also cross-examined him.
“Now Mr. Amodo, you were in the bush for only one night. Is that correct?” asked Odongo.
“That’s correct,” replied Amodo.
“Were you told the reason why it was necessary to take you to Ter-boke [rehabilitation center] after only one night in the bush?” asked Odongo.
“I was in the arms of the rebels and in that one particular night I went through pain … I walked long distances barefooted … I went through a lot,” answered Amodo.
He concluded his testimony on November 20, and Witness P-339 began testifying on November 21.
A transcript of Amodo’s testimony is available here.