A Former “Wife” of LRA Leader Joseph Kony Testifies About Life with Him

A former “wife” of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) her life with Kony and his power in the group.

Witness D-06 also described to the court the extent of support the Sudanese government gave the LRA when the group was based in Sudan. She testified about her life in the LRA on Friday, November 9 and Monday, November 12. She was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen.

He has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ongwen is alleged to have committed these crimes in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

During her testimony on November 9 and November 12, Witness D-06 told the court that when she joined what she called Kony’s household he had four “wives” and three girls. She said the four “wives” were released from the LRA some time after she joined Kony’s household.

Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, asked her why the four women were released.

“They were pregnant,” replied Witness D-06.

“Do you know if those women remained at home after giving birth?” asked Obhof.

“When they gave birth, they did not stay home. He (Kony) brought them back. One of them went to Sudan with him,” answered Witness D-06.

Witness D-06 said that before she was taken to Kony’s household she stayed with someone who was identified in open court as “Person Number One.” She said she stayed with him for one year and “some months” but this was not in one stretch. Witness D-06 said there were times when she left “Person Number One” and was assigned to Kony’s household.

Obhof questioned Witness D-06 about Kony and the spirits he spoke to. She told the court that Kony once told her that his power to speak to spirits began before he joined the rebellion in northern Uganda in the 1980s.

“He told me that this started when he was home. He said when he was home this thing took him to the Odek hills,” said Witness D-06. She said it is during this time he learnt about herbs and other medication.

It is possible Witness D-06 testified in greater detail about her life with Kony when the hearing went into private session, which is when only the judges, lawyers, Ongwen, and court staff could hear her testimony. Significant parts of her testimony on November 9 and November 12 was given in private session as part of court-ordered protective measures to keep her from being identified in public. Other measures included her face and voice being distorted during public broadcasts of her testimony.

During his examination-in-chief, Obhof asked Witness D-06 about the spirits Kony said he became possessed by and what role they played in the LRA.

“Specifically, to Silindi, what was Silindi’s job?” asked Obhof, referring to one the spirits.

“Silindi would usually pray and Silindi was the women’s spirit,” answered Witness D-06.

“And when you say the women’s spirit, what would Silindi do for the women?” asked Obhof.

“Silindi would protect women. For example, if there is a pregnant woman, Silindi would ask them to pray. Silindi would choose to be close to the women, praying with the women,” replied Witness D-06.

“Which spirit would tell Joseph (Kony) to abduct and not to abduct women?” asked Obhof.

“Silindi would mostly instruct Joseph Kony on the abduction of women,” Witness D-06 said.

Obhof also questioned Witness D-06 about what life was like in the LRA when the group was based in Sudan.

Witness D-06 said that at their bases in Sudan, LRA members were able to plant simsim, peanuts, a particular kind of sorghum, and sweet potatoes for food. She said they also kept cattle, goats, and chicken. She said the Sudanese also gave the LRA supplies.

“They gave us uniforms. They gave us weapons as well as food. They would also provide us with water and the hospitals so when people sustained serious injuries people would be taken and admitted in their hospitals,” said Witness D-06.

Obhof asked her whether she was ever injured and taken to such a hospital.

“No. I wasn’t taken there for treatment, but I was taken there when I had to give birth,” replied Witness D-06.

“Did you ever physically see people from the Sudanese government give medicines, or the water?” asked Obhof.

“Yes, I did witness this because we were together. At times we would actually eat together. We stayed together so there was nothing separating us,” answered Witness D-06.

“Do you know for how long the Sudanese government gave these provisions to the LRA?” asked Obhof.

“I do not recall precisely but I believe approximately six to seven years,” replied Witness D-06. She said the Sudanese government also provided them with vehicles and at their bases they built houses.

The last 50 minutes or so of the testimony of Witness D-06 was in private session. It is possible during this time the prosecution asked her questions in cross-examination. Witness D-06 concluded her testimony on Monday, November 12.

Ahead of her testimony Witness D-06 was the subject of litigation between the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution asked the trial chamber for permission to see the dates and duration of the calls between D-06 and Ongwen, who is in the custody of the ICC at The Hague. The prosecution did not request to know the content of the calls. One reason the prosecution gave for making the request was that Witness D-06 and Ongwen had been discussing the trial. The prosecution said this information was in a second report defense psychiatric experts wrote on the mental health of Ongwen. The defense opposed the request. Single Judge Bertram Schmitt granted the request in a November 2 decision.

A transcript of the testimony of Witness D-06 on November 12 can be found here.