Special Reports

LRA WAR: When a UPDF Bomb Hit a Civilian’s Home

160mm_Mortar_bomb_HE_TNT,_photographed_at_the_Aalborg_Forsvars-_og_Garnisonsmuseum
A picture of a mortar momb

The trial of Dominic Ongwen continued on Thursday, 28 September 2017, with the testimony of the 35th Prosecution witness, John Lubwama, also referred to as Witness P-0047.

On his second day of testimony, Lubwama testified about the relationship between the UPDF and the Local Defence Units (LDUs), and about the Pajule attacks on January and October 2003.

Cross-examination of John Lubwama

In response to Defence Counsel Abigail Bridgman questions, Lubwama stated that both UPDF and LDU soldiers received the same training and had the same mission.

“To fight, to protect the members of the population of the country,” he said.

Nevertheless, when confronted by the Defence Counsel, the witness stated that the time spent in training was different for UPDF and LDU fighters, although he could not establish how long the training of the LDUs soldiers was; “I was assigned soldiers who had already finished their training,” he explained.

Furthermore, the witness indicated that the LDUs members received “different” salaries than the UPDF soldiers, because the LDUs were “militias” whereas the UPDF was a “regular army”.

However, according to the witness, LDUs were under the UPDF command “at all times”, and were bound to the Ugandan court-martial system.

Turning to the attacks on Pajule, Lubwama testified that 150 of his men were stationed at Pajule and that some of his soldiers lived together with their wives and children in the Pajule barracks.

The witness stated that even though he was briefed about LRA activities in the area when he was deployed in November 2002, the attacks on Pajule in January and October “caught his forces by surprise”.

Lubwama testified that captured LRA members that were involved in the January attack informed the UPDF that the person who was commanding the operation was Vincent Otti and that Tabuley was his deputy.

According to his testimony, after the attack, the UPDF intelligence officers were responsible of advising civilians living in villages to move into an IDP camp “for their safety” and of asking those already in the IDP camps to provide information concerning “suspects who could be entering” the IDP camps.

Lubwama also testified that 17 people had been killed by “cross-fire” in the attack of January and he confirmed having heard about reports that a UPDF mortar bomb landed on a civilian house, which caused it to “catch fire”.

“No civilians were killed by that shell. The shell landed on a house that was not occupied,” he established.

Regarding the attack on Pajule in October, shortly after the Ugandan Independence Day, Mr Lubwama testified that his soldiers did not take part in the national celebrations because they were “in the middle of operations”, although the civilian population present at the camp did celebrate during the daytime.

Lastly, the witness indicated that LRA fighters captured after the attack informed the UPDF that Vincent Otti was the operational commander of the attack and that he was stationed around 12 kilometres to the east of Pajule, while the person who led the attack was called “Raska”.

Those captured fighters were later handed to an intelligence officer who then “left with them”, the witness concluded.

The trial in the case of Dominic Ongwen will resume next Monday, 2 October 2017, with the appearance of a new witness before the Court.

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