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ICC tries Lord’s Resistance Army Deputy Chief

BBC
The LRA Rebels
The LRA Rebels

The Deputy Commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Dominic Ongwen, appeared Monday before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Ongwen stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as prosecution hopes to gain further information on the structures of the LRA during the course of the trial.

But Mr. Ongwen has denied all charges against him, claiming that he is a victim of circumstances as he, himself, was kidnapped by the LRA at the age of 10 while on his way to school and was forced to become a child soldier.

Following his adoption, Ongwen rose quickly within the ranks of the Christian fundamentalist militia, reportedly murdering, stealing and raping in the name of Joseph Kony.

In January 2015, Ongwen surrendered to US Special Forces helping to hunt for Kony in the Central African Republic. At the same time, the hunt for Ongwen’s former Boss and Commander of the LRA, Joseph Kony, still continues.

The hunt for Mr. Kony, considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel leaders, began 10 years ago, but there is still no trace of him.

Joseph Kony or "the Butcher of Uganda" as he is sometimes called, is said to have kidnapped as many as 70,000 children, many of whom his rebel militia uses to carry things as they move from one camp to another.

At times some of the kidnapped children are released while others are forced to become child soldiers, as the case of Dominic Ongwen.

To stop boys from running away or returning to their villages, many are forced to shoot their own mothers while women and girls are raped, or forced to marry soldiers.

The members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have attacked villages, tortured civilians in northern Uganda, and executed some 100,000 people since the rebellion began, according to estimates.

More than 2 million people have been displaced by the conflict. In 2012, an American organization called Invisible Children drew global attention to the LRA with a film calling for Kony's capture.

The video was watched around 100 million times, but three years later, little is heard about Kony in the media. The situation could change as of Monday when one of Kony's deputies, Dominic Ongwen, appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Ongwen stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as prosecution hopes to gain further information on the structures of the LRA during the course of the trial.

He was reportedly kidnapped by the LRA at the age of 10 while he was on his way to school and was forced to become a child soldier.

Following his adoption, Ongwen rose quickly within the ranks of the Christian fundamentalist militia, reportedly murdering, stealing and raping in the name of Joseph Kony.

In January 2015, Ongwen surrendered to US Special Forces helping to hunt for Kony in the Central African Republic. Kony, 55, founded the LRA in 1986 after supposedly receiving a command from the Holy Spirit.

The militia wants to create a Christian theocratic state in Uganda, based on Kony's interpretation of the Bible and the Ten Commandments. In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against the self-proclaimed prophet for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but so far, he has evaded capture.

According to Kristof Titeca, an expert on the LRA at the Institute for Development Policy at the University of Antwerp, Kony is most likely in a border region between the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.

The search for Kony is like looking for a needle in a haystack, Mr. Titeca said. The region is covered in dense forest, making it both inaccessible and the perfect hiding place for the notorious rebel Commander.

 


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