Mr. Ongwen Dominic the LRA warlord.
“One cannot be a victim and, in the same circumstances which led to his victimization, also be a perpetrator”-Ayena-Odongo
He was ‘abused, indoctrinated and conditioned to believe he was carrying out God’s work by cleansing and purifying the nation’.
“We shall watch and see whether the new approach of ICC, being a new institution, will offer conclusive justice in the end. Otherwise, let the court first deliver its verdict”–Mr. Olaa Ambrose.
“No study was conducted to determine whose guns killed people in camps. Some of the killings could have been the work of government soldiers, the UPDF. Don’t blame the LRA alone”-Ayena-Odongo
GULU-UGANDA: Gulu district council hall in northern Uganda, was Tuesday September 18, 2018, filled to capacity where locals came to watch the live streaming of the opening statement of Dominic Ongwen’s defense lead counsel, Mr. Krispus Ayena-Odongo, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges.
Dominic Ongwen is the only one of the five top commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who were waging war against the government of General Yoweri Museveni indicted by the ICC in 2005, to appear for trials, ten years after warrant of arrests were issued against them.
Others include Joseph Kony, who is still at large hiding in the Central African Republic (CAR); Vincent Otti, believed to have been killed by Kony; Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odiambo, both confirmed by the ICC to be dead.
Dominic Ongwen is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the ICC while his boss, Joseph Kony, is indicted for only 7 counts.
According to International Justice Monitor article published on Monday September 17, 2018, defense counsel plans to argue that Dominic Ongwen “suffered a mental illness or defect, he acted under duress, and, for some of the charges, he has an alibi”.
He was captured by LRA rebels at the age of twelve; and, he was one of the over 30000 children abducted by the LRA between 1986 and 2009. He was ‘abused, indoctrinated and conditioned to believe he was carrying out God’s work by cleansing and purifying the nation’.
Dominic Ongwen becomes the first former child soldier to be tried before the ICC, a complexity that has raised much debate about the line between victim and perpetrator.
“One cannot be a victim and, in the same circumstances which led to his victimization, also be a perpetrator”, says Ayena-Odongo.
He says Ongwen is a product of the LRA war against government soldiers, the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF), but not war against civilians caught up in the conflict and it is therefore wrong to say that these killings were made by LRA soldiers only.
“No study was conducted to determine whose guns killed people in camps. Some of the killings could have been the work of government soldiers, the UPDF. Don’t blame the LRA alone”, says Ayena-Odongo
According to the Prime Minister of Ker Kwaro Acholi, Mr. Ambrose Olaa, there are so many dynamics to the case of Dominic Ongwen where the ICC system of justice seem not to be compatible with the aspirations of the local community of the affected .
“We shall watch and see whether the new approach of ICC, being a new institution, will offer conclusive justice in the end. Otherwise, let the court first deliver its verdict”, says Mr. Olaa.
Throughout the testimony of prosecution witnesses, Ongwen’s defense lawyers have questioned them about the violent ways the LRA initiated its new abductees. According to Ayena-Odongo, Dominic Ongwen should not be facing charges for crimes committed by the LRA as an institution.
The defense counsel also will argue that it should have been Uganda government on trial before the international court because it (government) failed to protect the over 30000 children from being abducted and indoctrinated by the LRA between 1986 and 2009.
The defense lawyers have also enlisted a traditional witchdoctor to go and testify on the spiritual aspects of the conflict in Uganda, arguing that it was the spirit which liked Dominic Ongwen that is why he rose through the LRA ranks quickly.
Mr. Ayena-Odongo also served the LRA and its legal advisor during the Juba Peace Talks between the government and LRA between 2006 and 2008. He is being assisted by Mr. Charles Achaleke Taku and Beth Lyons, among others.