International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Who’s Who

The Accused

Dominic Ongwen: A former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader. Abducted at a young age by LRA forces, Ongwen was a long-term member of the LRA who had held a number of command positions. He is alleged to be a key member of the LRA “Control Altar,” the core leadership responsible for devising and implementing LRA strategy. Ongwen was allegedly a Major in the LRA until 2002, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 2003, and made Brigade Commander of a special unit called the Sinia Brigade in December 2004. Ongwen was born in 1975, in Coorom, Kilak County, Amuru district, northern Uganda.

Judges of Trial Chamber IX

The Prosecution

Defense Counsel for Dominic Ongwen

  • Krispus Ayena Odongo

The Office of Public Counsel for Victims

  • Paolina Massidda (also referred to as the Common Legal Representative of the Victims)

Legal Representatives of the Victims

  • Joseph Akwenyu Manoba
  • Francisco Cox

Registry

  • Herman von Hebel, Registrar

Key Groups and Organizations

Ugandan Groups

  • Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA): A militant Christian armed group, led by Ugandan national Joseph Kony that has been carrying out an insurgency against the government of Uganda. Since at least 1987, the LRA has directed attacks against the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and against civilian populations. It is alleged that LRA forces are divided into four brigades: Stockree, Sinia, Trinkle, and Gilva. The LRA acts include murder, abduction, sexual enslavement, mutilation, as well as mass burnings of houses, and looting of camp settlements. Abducted civilians, including children, are said to have been forcibly “recruited” as fighters, porters, and sex slaves to serve the LRA and to contribute to attacks against the Ugandan army and civilian communities.
  • National Resistance Army (NRA): The military wing of the National Resistance Movement that waged a successful armed rebellion in Uganda in 1986, under the leadership of future Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. The rebellion allegedly included fierce attacks on northern Ugandan civilians, which were said to have persisted well after victory. Many argue that these attacks led to the creation of rebel forces such as the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The NRA eventually became the Ugandan national army, the UPDF.
  • Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF): Formerly known as the National Resistance Army, the UPDF is the Ugandan government’s military force.
  • The Holy Spirit Movement: A pre-cursor of the LRA, this militant Christian group was led by Alice Lakwena, who claimed the Holy Spirit had ordered her to overthrow the Ugandan government because of its treatment of the Acholi people. The movement gathered momentum, until it was militarily defeated by Ugandan government forces. As a result, Lakwena was forced into exile. Kony initially developed his following by claiming to be Lakwena’s cousin, insinuating a connection between the LRA movement and the Holy Spirit Movement.
  • Internal Security Organization (ISO): The Ugandan government’s counter-intelligence agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to Uganda’s policy makers. The ISO intercepted LRA radio communications that the prosecution is relying on as evidence.
  • Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA): This was a northern-led rebel force that fought against President Yoweri Museveni from 1986-1988. After a signed peace agreement with the Ugandan government in 1988, some UPDA forces opted to join the emerging LRA forces.

Other Armed Forces

  • Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA): The official army of the government of South Sudan, the SPLA was founded in the 1980s, as the military wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The SPLM, which led and mediated efforts between the LRA and the Uganda government, became the governing political party of newly independent South Sudan in 2012. As a result, the SPLA became the country’s army. The SPLA also participated in joint military operations against the LRA.
  • Regional Task Force (RTF): An African Union military force established to eliminate the LRA made up primarily of forces from Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan. The RTF worked to significantly weaken the LRA’s military hold over the region.
  • Central African Armed Forces: The armed forces of the CAR, which contributed 360 troops to the RTF.
  • United States Africa Command (US Africom): The US Defense Department’s geographical command for Africa responsible for military relations with African nations and the African Union. The command provided substantial international financial and material support to the RTF and sent about 100 troops into the field to aid in operations against the LRA.

Regional, International or Intergovernmental Organizations

  • African Union (AU): A continental union made up of 54 African states.
  • Regional Coordination Initiative (RCI): In November 2011, the AU started the RCI as a political instrument for the countries affected by the LRA, with an attached military wing, the RTF.
  • United Nations (UN): The United Nations has several missions throughout the affected region related to the LRA’s presence in Uganda. It also backed the Juba peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government between 2006 and 2008.
  • The UN Security Council: In June 2012, the Security Council endorsed a regional strategy developed by the United Nations to tackle the threat posed by the LRA. The strategy focused on five key strategic objectives to address the threat from the LRA, including support for the full operationalization and implementation of the African Union regional cooperation initiative against the LRA; enhancing efforts to promote the protection of civilians; and expanding current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas. Additionally, the strategy sought to promote a coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in these areas, and to support LRA-affected governments in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law and development, to enable them to establish State authority across their territories.
  • The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO): A UN Missions that aims to protect civilians, promote disarmament, and assist communities in addressing the impact of LRA attacks. In 2010, MONUSCO took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to reflect the new phase reached in the country. At one point, MONUC was the largest U.N. peacekeeping force in the world with approximately 17,000 military personnel and 3,000 civilians in Congo. Notably, MONUC had a very limited role in areas of Congo where the LRA maintained a presence.
  • The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS): A UN mission founded in 2011, after the independence of South Sudan, with a mandate to protect civilians, monitor human rights violations, support delivery of humanitarian assistance, promote disarmament, and assist communities in addressing the impact of LRA attacks.
  • The UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA): A political mission working at the request of the Security Council with the African Union to coordinate UN efforts to address the threat posed by the LRA.
  • The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic: A peacebuilding mission that aims to help the CAR overcome a history of political instability and recurring armed conflict.
  • United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU): An office that provides logistical and technical support to the RCI.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): An American agency that provided awards to help communities in the CAR reduce their vulnerability to violence from the LRA.

LRA Leaders

  • Joseph Kony: Alleged commander-in-chief of the LRA. Kony is subject to a 2005 ICC arrest warrant against him for 33 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  • Vincent Otti: Alleged vice-chairman and second-in-command of the LRA. Otti is subject to a 2010 ICC arrest warrant for 32 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimesd,
  • Okot Odhiambo: Alleged deputy army commander of the LRA. He was subject to 2005 ICC arrest warrant for 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His case was terminated on September 15, 2015 following his death.
  • Raska Lukwiya: Alleged deputy army commander of the LRA. He was subject to a 2005 arrest warrant for three counts of war crimes and one count of crimes against humanity. His case was terminated on July 11, 2007 following his death.

Affected Communities

  • The Acholi: An African ethnic group from an area sometimes referred to as Acholiland, around northern Uganda and South Sudan. Ongwen belongs to the Acholi ethnic group and is proficient in the Acholi language – like many members of the LRA leadership, including Joseph Kony. The Acholi form a part of Uganda’s non-Bantu speaking minority. Notably, Acholis were predominantly the victims of LRA attacks and abductions.
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): The LRA led systematic attacks on residents of camps for Internally Displaced Persons. An IDP, as opposed to a refugee, is a person who has been forced to leave his or her home, but has not crossed an international border. A refugee, on the other hand, is someone who has crossed an international border. As a general rule, IDP camps do not keep records on the ethnicity of their residents. Therefore, it is difficult to determine which communities were most affected by LRA attacks on IDP camps. The following groups have been known to be residents of IDP camps in large number, and, as a result, were most likely subject to LRA attacks.
  • The Langi: Among the non-Bantu speaking communities that occupy the northern portions of Uganda, along with the Acholi, the Iteso, the Alur, the Karamojong, the Jie, the Madi, and the Lugbara. The Langi constitute a significant portion of the IDPs in the northern region of Uganda.
  • The Iteso: The Iteso are the people of the Teso region, who are believed to be the second largest ethnic group in Uganda. They constitute a significant portion of the IDPs in the Teso region.

Geographical Terms

  • Abok: A municipality in Oyam County, Oyam District of northern Uganda. It was the site of an attack by the LRA at an IDP camp where at least 28 civilians were killed in June 2004.
  • Gulu: A city in northern Uganda, which is the commercial and administrative center of Gulu District.
  • Juba: The capital and largest city in South Sudan. Juba was the location for the peace talks between the LRA and Ugandan government from 2006 to 2008.
  • Kampala: The capital and largest city in Uganda, located in the central part of the country.
  • Lukodi: A village in the Gulu District of northern Uganda. It was the location of a May 2004 LRA attach, which killed at least 45 civilians.
  • Odek: A sub-county in Omoro District of northern Uganda. It was the site of an April 2004 attack by the LRA in which at least 61 civilians were murdered at an IDP camp.
  • Pajule: A city in northern Uganda that was the location of an October 2003 attack by the LRA at an IDP camp.