Witness: Kony Often Ordered and Then Stopped the Abduction of Civilians


A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), abortion Joseph Kony, approved often directed his commanders to abduct civilians and then he would order they stop the abductions.

Witness P-440 said yesterday that these orders were among the general orders Kony gave to his commanders over the radio.

The witness became the second former LRA radio operator to testify in the trial of Dominic Ongwen. Witness P-440 began his testimony on Wednesday afternoon.

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Ongwen is on trial on 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is charged for his alleged role in attacks that took place between 2003 and 2004 on the Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. At the time of those attacks he is alleged to have been a battalion commander and then promoted to brigade commander.

He is also charged with forcibly marrying seven women and committing sexual crimes against them.

On Wednesday, senior trial lawyer Benjamin Gumpert asked Witness P-440 about the general orders Kony gave to all his commanders concerning abductions.

“I don’t quite remember but since I was working on the radio sometimes he would order for abductions,” the witness said.

Gumpert then asked him whether Kony issued any other orders relating to abductions. The witness said he could not remember, but he could answer the question if he is reminded. It later emerged in court that Witness P-440 was interviewed by the Office of the Prosecutor 13 years ago.

To help the witness remember, Gumpert then asked the court whether he could show the witness the statement he made to prosecution investigators. Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt allowed this, and the witness was shown a particular passage. Then Gumpert asked him again what other orders Kony gave on abductions. Witness P-440 said Kony sometimes ordered for the abductions to stop.

“What was it that would cause him to order abductions to stop?” asked Gumpert.

Witness P-440 said that Kony had called himself a prophet and “maybe he could have been given a message or sign that he should stop” abductions.

Earlier the witness explained that radio communication in the LRA became important after the group was forced to disperse throughout northern Uganda to evade attacks from the Ugandan military. He told the court this happened after the Ugandan military began Operation Iron Fist. During this operation, the LRA was dislodged from its bases in southern Sudan, across the border from northern Uganda. He said this military offensive took place between 2000 and 2002.

Witness P-440 said the LRA units often planned attacks with the aim of looting radios. He said the radios the LRA used were usually powered using solar energy and the equipment to generate solar energy was seized from hospitals and compounds of missionaries in northern Uganda.

Gumpert asked him what would happen if a radio broke down.

“Often when the radio developed problems that group affected should find a way of repairing the radios,” said the witness.

“Would there be any assistance outside the individual [LRA] groups?” asked Gumpert.

“No, there wouldn’t be any assistance from outside,” the witness replied.


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