Witness Says Ongwen Told LRA Fighters to “Destroy Odek Completely”

A former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about what Dominic Ongwen said around the time of attacks on two camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda.

Witness P-205 told the court on Monday he was present when Ongwen issued instructions to LRA fighters for an attack on the Odek camp. The witness also told the court about what Ongwen told him after the attack on Lukodi camp.

The attacks on those two camps form part of the charges against Ongwen. He is also charged with attacking two other camps for internally displaced people, Pajule and Abok. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004. In total Ongwen faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also included in the charges against Ongwen are counts of forcibly marrying seven women, who were girls at the time, and committing sexual crimes against them.

Witness P-205 is testifying under in-court protective measures such as face and voice distortion in the public broadcast of the proceedings. He is also testifying with a legal adviser present, Sarah Kerwegi, to guide him on any part of his testimony that may be self-incriminating. The details of the terms under which he may give self-incriminating testimony were not discussed in public. However, it was made clear that any self-incriminating evidence he may give will not be given in public.

In his testimony, the witness talked about several conversations with Ongwen, and he said at one point he was in the Gilva brigade. Gilva is one of the four brigades of the LRA, according to the prosecution’s pre-trial brief. Sinia, which is another brigade in the LRA, is the one Ongwen belonged to. Witness P-205 also testified that at one point he was in the Terwanga battalion, which is one of three battalions of the Sinia brigade.

No other details about his rank or role in either Gilva brigade or Terwanga battalion were given during the witness’s testimony in public. However, in the prosecution’s pre-trial brief, P-205 is said to have become an acting commander of Terwanga battalion.

Witness P-205 said he does not know whether there was any planning done for the attack on Odek. He said all he knew was that there was an order for the Terwanga battalion to contribute fighters for the attack.

The witness said that before the attack on Odek, Ongwen addressed fighters of the Sinia brigade who were to take part in the attack. He said he was present during that address, and Ongwen told the fighters they “should go and destroy Odek completely.”

“Nothing should be left in Odek. That is what I heard him telling the people,” Witness P-205 told the court.

He said Ongwen did make an exception to the order to destroy Odek.

“He [Ongwen] said in this attack if they found good girls they should be abducted. Boys should be abducted when found. Those who [are] not fit to be in the army, those above 18, they should be killed,” said Witness P-205.

After the attack, the witness said he saw some of the fighters return with food. This food, according to the witness, was carried by fighters from the Terwanga battalion who took part in the Odek attack.

Regarding the assault on Lukodi, Witness P-205 said he learned about it from Ongwen, when Ongwen was reporting to their superiors about the attack. He said the attack was also discussed at a rendezvous, or RV as the witness referred to it, held soon after the attack. Witness P-205 said he was present during the meeting, or RV, and he named other individuals present at that meeting, including women who were referred to as Ongwen’s wives. The witness also said he saw the weapons seized during the attack and the civilians abducted during the attack who were later released.

Witness P-205 told the court about other attacks he knew Ongwen led on Lalia, Ngora, and Patongo, all of them places in northern Uganda. He said Ongwen ordered him and others to attack a military camp in a place called Opit. The witness also told the court about other meetings of commanders and officers of the LRA at which Ongwen participated.

Witness P-205 will continue to testify on Tuesday.