Okello Oryem sharply denounced any speculation that the Uganda government may have colluded with the LRA to make it appear as if the rebel leadership had been eliminated
[International: ICC And Uganda]
The world’s top court for prosecuting war criminals wants to definitively establish whether some commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are dead or not, The Black Star News has learned.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has established a presence in Uganda’s capital of Kampala to help the court scientifically confirm the reported deaths. Five rebel commanders, including LRA chief Joseph Kony, believed to be in Central Africa, had been indicted by the court, on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.
ICC officials did not return a message seeking official comment.
(Separately, the ICC is investigating Uganda’s national army, the UPDF, on alleged war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, during Uganda’s occupation of Eastern Congo, according to The Wall Street Journal, which also reported that President Yoweri Museveni in the past asked Kofi Annan, while he was the UN chief, to block the probe; Annan rejected the request saying he had no such powers.)
Local Uganda media have reported the deaths of Vincent Otti, who had been Kony’s deputy, as well as deaths of Raska Lukwiya, and Okot Odhiambo, at different stages, over the last four years.
The bodies of the dead commanders have never been presented so no scientific examination has been performed, including DNA testing of remains.
“The ICC doesn’t act on media reports; all these deaths have been announced in the press,” a source familiar with the matter, says. “That is why we have to institute a thorough investigation into all these alleged deaths.”
“Scientific evidence is vital to prove their deaths, but that hasn’t been established,” says the source.
Lukwiya is reported to have been killed by the UPDF in August 2006; Otti reportedly was executed on Kony’s orders between October and November last year; and, Odhiambo is reported to have been executed several weeks ago. Various reports have Kony and Dominic Ongwen as the only survivors of the LRA’s indicted leadership.
A top Uganda official said he was unaware of the development.
“No, I don’t know about the ICC’s move about setting-up an office in Kampala,” says Uganda’s International Affairs Minister, Henry Okello Oryem, when reached by telephone. “But they are welcome.”
Okello Oryem sharply denounced any speculation that the Uganda government may have colluded with the LRA to make it appear as if the rebel leadership had been eliminated, so as to remove the dilemma of the ICC indictments; some people see the indictments and threat of arrests of rebel commanders as an impediment for a peace deal to be concluded between the government and rebels. Kony in the past has said he would not sign an agreement so long as the ICC indictments and arrest warrants stand.
“That is rubbish, rubbish, absolutely rubbish,” the minister says, of the speculation about faking the commanders’ deaths. “The persons who say such a thing; that the government wants to cover-up, these people have to be shot on the spot—-Any such person saying that Uganda government connived with LRA rebels should be shot immediately on sight.”
The minister says information about the death of rebel commanders reported to have been executed come from multiple defectors, presented at different times and that the reports, including from eye witnesses, were consistent.
Moreover, Oryem Okello adds, peace has been restored in northern Uganda and there were no longer rebel activities.
People who had been displaced were returning to their homes, he adds, and also mentions that several businesses, including major banks, had established offices in Gulu, the major town in northern Uganda.
The minister challenged the reporter for using outdated information in forming an opinion on the current conditions.
“There are no rebels any more. Where are they?” the minister asks. “Listen, listen, for the last two years, there hasn’t been a single incident of abduction, burning homes, killing; there hasn’t been any incident of vehicle attack by the LRA rebels—-All those are just imagination of people against the government. There is no single rebel activity; people are going back in their home, growing maize, millet there are no combatants in the northern Uganda.”
“Northern Uganda is peaceful and businesses are booming in Gulu. I want to tell you Gulu is even better than Mbarara,” the minister says.
People peddling a different and gloomy story were “enemies” of the people of northern Uganda, he says.
Investigative reporter Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from Europe. He can be reached with credible and documented news tips at [email protected]
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