Witness Describes the Spirit World of the LRA

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he took notes when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader, Joseph Kony, was possessed by spirits and described how Kony used spirits to direct LRA fighters in battle.

Jackson Acama told the court that for some time he served as clerk to the spirits during the 17 years he was a member of the LRA and its predecessor, the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces. He said his job as clerk to the spirits included taking notes whenever Kony was possessed by spirits.

Acama testified on Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25 during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander. Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed between July 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005. During this period, Ongwen is alleged to have had a role in attacks on four camps for internally displaced people, sexual and gender-based crimes, and conscripting child soldiers.

When Ongwen’s lawyers made their opening statement on September 18, they argued that one of the ways Kony asserted control over the LRA was through spirits and that people in the LRA, including Ongwen, believed Kony’s power came from the spirits he communicated with.

“The clerk to the spirit writes the minutes of the spirit because when Kony is possessed by the spirit, when he is delivering speeches, he becomes unconscious because the spirit is in him. The minutes must be written so that when the spirit leaves him, he is given the minutes,” said Acama.

On October 24, Acama named some of the spirits Kony communicated with and their role in the LRA. He said the chairman of the spirits was called Juma Oris.

Acama said Juma Oris was responsible for making sure “the will of God is executed spiritually.”

He said other spirits Kony communicated with were Mama Silindi; Jim Brickey Who Are You; Ing Chu; Hawa; Owora; Major Bianca; and King Bruce.

Acama said Mama Silindi was a Sudanese national and was the spirit in charge of operations. He said Jim Brickey Who Are You was a United States citizen and the spirit in charge of intelligence and protected “the children of God” against any conspiracy. Acama said Jim Brickey Who Are You knew at each battle what number of enemy troops the LRA would face and the type and number of guns they had. He said Ing Chu was the miracle performer and Hawa was a co-miracle performer. He said Owora was also responsible for intelligence. Major Bianca was responsible for The Yard, said Acama.

During his testimony, Acama described The Yard as the oracle house. He said it was restricted to only those in the LRA who handled spiritual matters. He said these were people called controllers and technicians. Acama said catechists were also allowed into The Yard. He said The Yard had a commander who oversaw the controllers, technicians and catechist.

Acama told the court that controllers and technicians directed the flow of a battle LRA fighters were in. He said controllers went into battle, while technicians remained in The Yard from where they directed the battle.

“The technicians control the explosion of the enemy’s guns. If the spirit announced the category of guns the enemies have then you will make a model of the gun, then you put an iron cap on the muzzle then you put the gun on a charcoal stove,” he said. He explained that if the cap was blown off they would know that the LRA fighters are being shot at and getting wounded.

“Sometimes control is done in the river. You take all the model guns to the water then you pray and control them. If they are not working their caps will be closed but if they begin to work the caps will get off. That will mean you have to ask God to close the power of those guns,” Acama told the court.

He said he continued to work in The Yard until 1994 when he was assigned to participate in peace talks between the LRA and the government.

Krispus Ayena Odongo, Ongwen’s lead lawyer, asked Acama what rank he held when he left The Yard in 1994. He said he did not hold any rank at that time.

“In the LRA, in the beginning, there was no military rank. Every commander was called a teacher because they were the teacher of the Bible. But from 1995 when the LRA were already in Sudan that was when military ranks were given so that they (the LRA) can be respected by the Sudanese troops who have ranks,” said Acama.

Odongo asked him in some detail about the rules of the LRA and what sanctions or penalties people faced for breaking those rules.

“In the LRA the most important law is the 10 Commandments (in the Bible). But we have some laws which everyone in the LRA must follow,” Acama said. He also said there were rules LRA fighters were required to follow when going into battle such as how to cross a river or what to say when passing a tree.

“The 10 commandments is taught and preached in the LRA because Kony has been sent to restore the 10 commandments … Not only for Uganda but the world at large. Humankind, mankind should follow the 10 commandments,” said Acama, explaining why the 10 commandments were central to the LRA.

On Thursday October 25, Acama told the court about a time he and 28 other commanders questioned why the LRA attacked civilians. According to an extract of Acama’s statement that senior trial lawyer Benjamin Gumpert read out in court, the 29 commanders were punished.

In that extract, Acama said their hands and feet were bound and attachments tied to their testicles. He also said they were not given food or water for three days. In the extract, Acama also said one of them, Ray (Apire), was caned 300 times.

“We were advocating that if there is a military objective the civil population should be spared in that battle place,” Acama told the court on October 25. He said they were misunderstood and seen to be contradicting the orders of the spirit, “so we were viewed as rebels.”

“We were to be executed, firing squad, but fortunately (Kenneth) Banya pleaded and, according to the conclusion of the spirit, we were released,” said Acama. The Banya Acama referred to served as an adviser to Kony. Before his time with the LRA, Banya had been an air force officer.

When he began his testimony on October 24, Acama said he was abducted by the Holy Spirit Movement Forces in 1987. The Holy Spirit Movement Forces was the predecessor of the LRA. Acama said between 1986 and 1987 he had been a collaborator for the Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA), a separate rebel group in northern Uganda. He said at the time he was also a primary school teacher.

Acama concluded his testimony on October 25. The transcript for Acama’s testimony on October 25 is available here.