A former abductee of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court that the Lukodi camp for internally displaced people that Dominic Ongwen is charged with attacking was not originally intended to be a target.
Witness P-18 told the court on Tuesday that Awach, another town in northern Uganda, was the intended target, but the LRA changed plans because there was a strong presence of government soldiers in that location. The witness said she learned about the change in plans when her unit and another unit of the LRA gathered before the attack.
Ongwen has been charged with attacking Lukodi in May 2004. He is also charged for his alleged role in attacks on three other camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda that took place between 2003 and 2004 in the towns of Abok, Odek, and Pajule. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual crimes and conscription of child soldiers. In total, he faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Witness P-18 began testifying on Tuesday afternoon, and she was questioned by Benjamin Gumpert, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Ongwen.
She told the court that she was abducted by men under the command of a man called Tulu. In the prosecution’s pre-trial brief Tulu’s full name is given as Olak Tulu. Before the attack on Lukodi, the pre-trial brief states he held the rank of major and was in charge of the sick bay of the LRA’s Gilva brigade.
Gumpert asked the witness a number of questions about the attack on Lukodi, which the witness said she participated in. He asked about a meeting, or rendezvous or RV as they were commonly referred to in the LRA, that took place ahead of the attack and what was discussed.
“The meeting, what I can recall was when I was told that we should go … whoever we found on the road we should kill because the Acholi had become stubborn,” said Witness P-18. She said it was Odomi who addressed those gathered, using the other name that Dominic Ongwen was known by in the LRA. This name, Odomi, is one of the facts the defense and prosecution have agreed to.
“In their plan we were supposed to have gone to attack Awach, but they realized there were many government soldiers,” said Witness P-18.
Later, Gumpert tried several times to get the witness to elaborate on why Ongwen instructed them to target the Acholi in the attack, but Witness P-18 only answered in general terms.
“Did Odomi give any other instructions about who should be killed?” is one such question that Gumpert asked the witness in order to get her to say more on the issue.
“He said whoever was found should be killed,” was her response.
When he failed to get Witness P-18 to elaborate further on the issue, he asked the court to allow him to refresh her memory by reading an excerpt of her statement to prosecution investigators that was made on August 10, 2005.
Part of the excerpt he read was, “that Odomi said the Acholi do not want to go home. They [the commanders] wanted the Acholi people to leave the camps and go back to their villages.”
Witness P-18 agreed that that is what she heard Ongwen say at that time. Several times, Gumpert had to ask the court’s leave to refresh the witness’s memory because she could not initially recall some of the things she had told prosecution investigators.
Earlier on Tuesday, Witness P-352 continued her testimony, with Charles Taku, co-counsel for Ongwen, asking her questions in cross-examination.
The witness testified to having taken part in the attack on Odek, and Taku questioned her about that. He observed that Odek is where Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, was born.
“Why would people attack Kony’s birthplace, seeing that he was the supreme leader?” asked Taku.
“I did not know why they attacked,” replied Witness P-352.
“Now after the attack, did you get to know whether Joseph Kony punished anyone for attacking his birthplace?” Taku asked.
“I do not know. I did not hear,” replied the witness.
Later Taku asked Witness P-352 about an inconsistency in her amnesty application form submitted to Uganda’s Amnesty Commission. The witness told the court that she did not know what was filled in the form because she was illiterate.
Taku observed that in answer to a question as to whether the applicant had ever used a condom during sex, what was ticked was the box next to the option, “Never had sex.” On Monday, Witness P-352 testified that while she was in the LRA she was raped when she was 13 years old by someone identified only as “person number one” in open court. She said she became his wife after that assault.
“On the basis of this [the amnesty application form], may I suggest to you that you remained a ting ting in the house of Mr. Number One and that it is accurate that you were never his wife. What do you say to that?” asked Taku. Ting ting is a term that was commonly used in the LRA to refer to girls who are assigned domestic chores.
“That’s not true,” the witness replied. Witness P-352 concluded her testimony on Tuesday morning.
Witness P-18 will continue testifying on Wednesday.