Global Policy Forum

Should Kony Face Trial?

New Vision
February 11, 2004

Last month, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced it would probe the atrocities committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in Northern Uganda, with the aim of prosecuting its leader, Joseph Kony. Denis Ocwich interviewed some opinion leaders from northern Uganda on this move.

It is a fifty-fifty spectrum: On one hand, there are those who strongly feel that the International Criminal Court (ICC) must move swiftly and apprehend Kony and his deputies. On the other, we have those who view any attempt to indict Kony as a step that will outdo all the overtures for dialogue. However, they all agree that the LRA is guilty of incredible crimes against humanity. The only split is on how to deal with the rebel leaders.

Bishop John Charles Odurkami of Lango Anglican Diocese, the option of peacetalks and amnesty was the best. Unfortunately, the rebels have snubbed the "gift" given to them by the government. "As a religious leader, I would want a peaceful way for sorting out differences. Definitely with amnesty in place, I would go for negotiation and peaceful option," said Odurkami. However, he was quick to add that the amnesty can be abused. "We have appealed to the rebels. The government has appealed to the rebels to come out and benefit from it (amnesty)... But the rebels have continued to kill and commit atrocities. That is criminal. As much as amnesty is in place, other avenues can also be pursued. Let the ICC go ahead, but I think if he (Kony) comes out before he can be prosecuted, then he can be pardoned."

In Kitgum, the LC5 chairman, Nahaman Ojwe, rubbishes the claims by those who want peacetalks. To him, Kony is an adamant man who does not want dialogue. "Those who are insisting on peace talks are detractors, they are sadists. I don't support that. The man cannot talk. Its either through war or the court avenue," Ojwe said, adding that he wants the ICC to go right away and bring the LRA to book. Ojwe, who last October floated the idea of dragging Kony to the world court, has been blacklisted by the rebels. He wants Kony to be tried the way Rwanda's genocide perpetrators and ex-Serbian strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, are being tried in The Hague. But he wants the probe to commence immediately, say in two months time, so that by mid this year, Kony is arraigned.

Both Ojwe and his Gulu counterpart, Lt. Col. Walter Ochora, have some time back been in peaceful contacts with the rebels, only to realise the LRA top men are playing hide-and-seek. "The rebels simply don't have any respect for amnesty, whether we extend it 100 times... So we would be fooling ourselves if you think the top LRA commanders are going to accept amnesty," said Ochora, who is in absolute support of the ICC plans. "Otherwise the evidence (of atrocities) we have here is in abundance." The amnesty, he said, can only be extended for the rank and file of the LRA, most of them originally abducted and conscripted into rebel ranks.

In Lira, Felix Okot Ogong, MP for Dokolo, also state minister for youth and children affairs, is also in for Kony's prosecution. "They should come here and do their independent investigation," Okot said, adding that Kony has to pay for the atrocities he has meted out. To those calling for dialogue, Okot asked: "Which peaceful avenue? We have given him (Kony) 18 years. He has not even told anybody that he wants to negotiate. He has no political agenda."

Likewise, Betty Amongi, Apac woman MP does not believe the peaceful avenue is going to materialise. But, much as she welcomes the intervention of the ICC, she has a quarrel with the world community for being too slow to react. She said the court was now coming in at a time when many people have already been killed, maimed and abducted. "In Northern Uganda we are not happy with the international community for dragging its feet. The international community should stop turning their face away from African problems," said Amongi. Kony's arrest can be possible with the cooperation of Sudan, whose government has been accused of giving cushion to Kony. "If Sudan cooperates with the ICC, it will be easy. What I know is that these people (LRA) have a big camp in Juba. Once Kony is in Sudan, the Sudan government knows where he is." But she warned that Sudan might only stop helping Kony if Uganda also proves that it no longer helps Southern Sudan's SPLA rebels. "Yesterday (February 7) I was speaking to the Sudanese minister of labour... Sudan no longer wants to give any help to the LRA."

Santa Okot Pader Woman MP, however described the ICC probe as something which is "double-edged." "For me I don't support that one. We should continue with the amnesty and dialogue option," said Okot, a member of the now idle Presidential Peace Team (PPT) constituted by President Museveni in 2002. Okot argued that the Uganda government should also sort the matter out with the Sudan government, as well as re-organising the PPT. She blamed the President for not showing keen interest in the work of his team.

Reagan Okumu , another member of the PPT, also MP Aswa also blasted the international community for not being serious about the northern conflict. "There are a lot of cases of war crimes in northern Uganda. The killing of our people started as early as 1986. People are being killed everyday," Okumu said, adding, "What the ICC should do is to come down and do thorough investigation and commit all those who have committed war crimes to the international court." He supports both the peaceful means and prosecution. But he argued that not only the LRA, but also the UPDF, have committed atrocities. Okumu however called for Kony's arrest as the first step to prosecution, other than provoking the rebel leader to become wilder and kill more people. "I think the best they should have done is to get hold of Kony first. Let them find a framework of getting hold of Kony," he said.

Charles Angiro Gutumoi MP Erute North, agreed with a question mark: "Much as I support the prosecution, it should be done when somebody is apprehended, not in absentia. The man may become so mad and start killing people indiscriminately?" Angiro blamed the international community for being slow. "They have not done much," he said adding that the LRA war must have caught the world's eye long ago. In Gulu, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARPI), which has since tried in vain to woo Kony into dialogue, are emphatically opposed to the prosecution.

Last week, ARPI's officials, Fr. Carlos Rodriguez (Advocacy Officer) and Retired Bishop, McLeod Baker Ochola insisted there was still room for dialogue with the rebels, if only the mistrust between the rebels and the government could be sorted out. "This kind of approach is going to destroy all efforts for peace. People want this war to stop. If we follow the ICC in branding the LRA criminal, it (war) won't stop," said Ochola. Fr. Carlos argues that the confidence of the rebels needs to be built through mediation by the international community. "If they perceive now that the international bodies are after them, there will be no way to convince them to come to the negotiating table as they are only likely to think of more violence," said Fr. Carlos.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Joseph Kony
More Information on the Rogues Gallery
More Information on the International Criminal Court Investigation in Uganda


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