By Susan Kendi
A retired Uganda People’s Defence Force soldier told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that Dominic Ongwen was not among the Lord’s Resistance Army leaders active in Teso during the 2003-2004 insurgency.
Testifying on Tuesday August 20, 2019, via video link, Emmanuel Ewicho, who is currently a chairman of veterans in his village, opened up to the court on how disappointed he was when he heard that Ongwen was arrested and taken to the ICC. The witness explained that this was because he knew that Ongwen was not in Teso.
“That is the truth and is why I am in this court. I do not believe Dominic Ongwen was in Teso. If he was in Teso he would be among those dead in Anyara.”
Here are some of the excerpts between Gordon Kifudde, one of Ongwen’s lawyers and Emmanuel Ewicho:
Kifudde: How long did you serve in the UPDF from 1992 onwards?
Ewicho: I can’t remember but I retired in 2003 at the same time the insurgency happened.
Kifudde: After you retired were you given any special role in terms of soldiers in your village?
Ewicho: I am the chairman of veterans at my place.
Kifudde: What is your role?
Ewicho: My role is to make sure that the veterans who return come and ensure security and calmness that they don’t come with uniforms or guns. So, I work with the District Internal Security Officer [Diso].
Kifudde: You said upon your retirement you went back home and found an insurgency. What role did you play to fight the insurgency?
Ewicho: I communicated with the army and I showed them places that the bad people hid because I knew the place very well.
Judge Bertram Schmitt: Who are these bad people?
Ewicho: In 2003 there were rebels they covered Acholi, Lango and Teso. They abducted children and killing people including women…There were UPDF and Arrow Boys. These two were working together to chase the rebels.
Kifudde: Who recruited these Arrow Boys?
Ewicho: It was formed within the village in 2003 when the LRA first attacked us. They were the first to fight the LRA then UPDF.
Kifudde: What kinds of people were recruited as Arrow Boys?
Ewicho: It was mainly the youth who were recruited.
Kifudde: Did UPDF play any special role in the recruitment.
Ewicho: That’s true and they were even commanders in the Arrow Boys
Kifudde: Were these Arrow Boys given numbers as soldiers?
Ewicho: Yes, they were given four figure commission numbers
Judge Bertram Schmitt: You said it was the youth who were recruited, how old were they?
Ewicho: They were aged 18 years and above.
Kifudde: Upon recruitment to the Arrow Boys did they receive any training?
Ewicho: Yes, and they would wear uniforms of the army.
Kifudde: This recruitment would target former military people like yourself and civilians?
Ewicho: We were mixed up, those who were former soldiers and civilians.
Kifudde: What were the terms of engagement of these Arrow Boys? Did they get paid?
Ewicho: The government paid them an amount of between 30,000 Ugandan Shillings and 60,000 Ugandan Shillings.
Kifudde: Was the government consistent in paying this money?
Ewicho: Yes, it was consistent.
Kifudde: After training, were these Arrow Boys given guns?
Ewicho: Yes, but after the insurgency the government took the guns.
Kifudde: Who gave them the guns?
Ewicho: I do not know who exactly [gave them guns]
Kifudde: Before the Arrow Boys did the people in Teso consider joining the LRA?
Ewicho: That could be true but there is no way they could join the LRA. They [LRA] were killing people.
Kifudde: How long did the fight against LRA take in Teso?
Ewicho: In the year 2003 that is when a commander called Tabuley came to Teso with his people.
Kifudde: Apart from Tabuley, do you know of any other commanders who came to Teso?
Ewicho: Yes, there were other commanders, but they were all killed in Teso because even Tabuley himself was killed in Omid primary school. 2004 was the height of insurgency and that was when the LRA were defeated and went to Sudan. In our investigation, we wanted to know who these commanders were and Tabuley was one of these commanders. When the LRA went to Sudan, I also heard Dominic Ongwen was arrested. The truth is that Ongwen was not in Teso. Because we did a thorough investigation to know which commanders were there. That is the truth and why I am in this court. I do not believe Dominic Ongwen was in Teso. If he was in Teso he would be among those dead in Anyara. For emphasis, Dominic Ongwen was not there. It was later that I heard on radio Dominic Ongwen was arrested and he was at the ICC. We were not happy with that since we knew Dominic Ongwen was not in Teso.
Kifudde: Apart from recruiting Arrow Boys to fight the LRA did the government take any other steps to protect civilians?
Ewicho: For the Arrow Boys, after the insurgency they were all give their pensions and sent home.
Kifudde: We know that there were camps in Teso. What were the living conditions there?
Ewicho: It was very bad. People died in those camps and there is no way they could survive, there was no food.
There being no questions by the prosecution and the victim lawyers, Ewicho’s testimony marked an adjournment of the ongoing Ongwen’s trial to September 5,2019 with Witness D-085 testifying.
Dominic Ongwen’s trial has been ongoing since December 2016. He is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005.