Generally known as the “White Ant”, battle crimes suspect Dominic Ongwen is estimated to have been between 9 and 14 years outdated when he was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Military (LRA) as he was strolling to highschool in northern Uganda – happening over the subsequent 27 years to grow to be a ruthless insurgent commander.
Warning: Some individuals could discover particulars on this story upsetting
“It’s a story of a kid, like many within the LRA, pressured to develop up within the picture of their oppressors,” marketing campaign group LRA Disaster Tracker says.
Shortly after his abduction in 1987 or 1988, he tried to flee with three others and once they failed, he was pressured to pores and skin alive one of many different abductees as a warning, a psychiatrist at his battle crimes trial on the Worldwide Felony Courtroom (ICC) in The Hague stated.
“They skinned this particular person, eliminated his intestine, and put it up on timber,” Dickens Akena informed the court docket. “And he [Ongwen] stated he would not eat meat for 2 to a few months.”
Mr Ongwen – whose surname means “born on the time of the white ant” – went on to rise quickly in insurgent ranks, turning into a brigadier by his late 20s after profitable the arrogance of LRA chief Joseph Kony, LRA Disaster Tracker says.
However he had a fractious relationship with the LRA warlord, managing to flee his clutches in 2015 when he surrendered – 10 years after he, Mr Kony and three different senior commanders had been indicted by the ICC.
He now faces judgement in his trial for 70 counts of battle crimes and crimes towards humanity dedicated between July 2002 and December 2005.
They relate to assaults on 4 camps, guarded by the safety forces, arrange for these pressured to flee their properties due to insurgent raids. He additionally faces sexual crimes fees and people of conscripting and utilizing youngsters below the age of 15 in hostilities.
Claiming to struggle for a biblical state, the LRA has killed greater than 100,000 individuals and kidnapped greater than 60,000 youngsters in the course of the three-decade lengthy battle which unfold to a number of of Uganda’s neighbours.
Mr Ongwen, who has pleaded not responsible, says he must be considered a sufferer too, telling the court docket: “I am one of many individuals towards whom the LRA dedicated atrocities.”
‘He preferred dancing’
Described as a quiet and playful baby, his uncle, Johnson Odong, a court docket witness, stated Mr Ongwen’s dad and mom had been each useless inside a month of his abduction – his mom allegedly bludgeoned by the rebels and his father mistaken for a insurgent by the safety forces.
His trainer, P’Atwoga Okello, stated in a defence witness assertion that the boy loved cultural dance courses “and different areas of the humanities”.
His trainer within the LRA was Vincent Otti, who went on to grow to be Mr Kony’s deputy, with whom he lived after his abduction, based on educational Erin Ok Baines.
trainer might command fierce loyalty after indoctrinating captives via brutal beatings and rituals – adopted by army coaching and looting raids.
Ongwen was reportedly wanting to please, however initially struggled with the calls for of life on the hoof – the lengthy distances travelled on foot, and one ICC witness stated he needed to be carried throughout massive rivers.
Within the mid-Nineties he moved to what’s now South Sudan from the place the LRA carried out operations. By 2001 he was a area commander and he turned identified for replenishing forces via abduction raids in Uganda, Ms Baines says.
“[He] earned the status of with the ability to emerge from the bloodiest of battles with few casualties amongst his fighters,” the Sufficient Mission, one other marketing campaign group, says.
Dominic Ongwen at a look:
Kidnapped by LRA on his option to college
Rose to grow to be a high commander
Accused of battle crimes and crimes towards humanity, together with enslavement
ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005
Rumoured to have been killed in the identical yr
US provided $5m (£3.3m) reward for data resulting in his arrest in 2013
Has Joseph Kony been defeated?
One former abductee referred to as him “a tricky fighter who was all the time on the transfer” – although with a limp from a foul leg harm.
Through the trial, the prosecution offered LRA radio communications intercepted by Ugandan safety companies, displaying how Mr Kony – who satisfied his military of abductees that his “spirits” might learn their minds – saved tight command and management over his battalions.
“Profitable commanders had been praised by Kony and different senior officers. I bear in mind Dominic Ongwen, known as Odomi, continuously being singled out for reward,” stated a radio surveillance officer, whose identification was saved secret.
“One incident that I recall was an assault on Omot in about 1998/1989 the place he was second in command to Lagira. Lagira praised Odomi’s feats, stating that he now able to command his personal unit,” he stated.
However Mr Ongwen additionally had a unstable relationship with Mr Kony, opposing the execution of Mr Otti in 2007 after the 2 fell out amid stalled peace talks.
“LRA defectors report that Ongwen was the one commander who pleaded with Kony to spare Otti’s life, a transfer that weakened his affect throughout the LRA,” says LRA Disaster Tracker.
“Nevertheless, Kony spared Ongwen from the following purge of Otti loyalists as a consequence of Ongwen’s worth to the LRA, notably his capacity to guide troops on daring missions.”
The peace initiative befell in a jungle clearing on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and what’s now South Sudan – with unimaginable footage of the rebels interacting with mediators.
Together with his trademark dreadlocks and boyish appears to be like, Mr Ongwen is seen wanting on cautiously on the proceedings, which observers say finally failed due to the refusal to withdraw the ICC’s 2005 indictments.
For some – together with his “bush spouse”, Florence Ayot – this was an injustice.
“Dominic used to inform us he was kidnapped when he was very younger. All the pieces he did was within the title of Kony, so he is harmless,” she informed the BBC in 2008.
Granted amnesty after escaping from the LRA in 2005, she had been kidnapped as a nine-year-old and first turned the “spouse” of LRA commander Obwong Kijura, who had raped her on the age of 13.
After his demise, she informed the ICC she willingly turned Mr Ongwen’s “spouse” because the LRA chief wouldn’t enable girls to stay on their very own.
She stated he handled her son like his personal youngsters by his different three “wives” on the time and was by no means violent to her.
“I beloved him due to the way in which he would stay with individuals. He was not quarrelsome, and I felt it was good for me to go to him. There was nothing I disliked about him as a result of I had not seen something fallacious he had accomplished earlier than… We lived fortunately collectively.”
‘I used to be screaming’
This jars with different testimony of seven others on the trial, together with witness P-227, one other of Mr Ongwen’s “wives”. Kidnapped in April in 2005, she was allegedly pressured to have intercourse with Mr Ongwen a month later: “I began crying, I used to be screaming and my voice was actually loud.
“He requested why I used to be crying; he informed me if I continued crying – he confirmed me his gun… I felt like my entire physique was being torn aside.” She says she was repeatedly raped till her escape in 2010.
And escape was a harmful endeavour – the LRA would threaten to destroy your village in the event you did so. In keeping with Ms Ayot’s testimony, she and Mr Ongwen did plot to go in 2003, however their plan was found and her “husband” was positioned “below arrest” by Otti for a number of weeks.
Some psychiatrists on the trial felt Mr Ongwen was affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction and a dissociative identification dysfunction on the time of the assaults on the camps, when the prosecution stated was he a battalion commander within the Sinia Brigade – turning into its total commander in March 2004.
ICC prosecutors quote witness testimony as saying that on at the least one event he ordered his males “to kill, prepare dinner and eat civilians”.
Greater than 4,000 victims have participated within the trial – represented by two authorized groups – most of them former camp residents – and the trial has detailed the lives misplaced, destruction, abductions and psychological injury to those communities in northern Uganda.
Rows over household cellphone calls
In 2013, the US – which had joined the hunt for LRA commanders – provided a $5m (£3.3m) reward for data resulting in Mr Ongwen’s seize.
With stories of his killing in 2005 proving to be unfaithful, he remained on the run for a lot of extra years because the rebels moved west into DR Congo and its different neighbours.
An LRA escapee alleged that Mr Kony ordered that Mr Ongwen be severely crushed for insubordination on the finish of 2014.
In dangerous form he finally escaped from the LRA camp in Darfur, making it from Sudan to neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), the place he was taken into custody.
On the time he requested for forgiveness from the Ugandan individuals, however inside 10 days he had been transferred to the ICC.
In keeping with Justiceinfo.internet, throughout his pre-trial incarceration he appeared to get pleasure from his probability to pursue an schooling, together with piano-lessons.
Although he threatened suicide and went on starvation strike in 2016 in rows over cellphone calls to his household – he had initially been barred from speaking to his youngsters.
Some argue that the trial has been a proxy prosecution of Mr Kony, whose insurgent motion is way weaker nowadays however remains to be energetic outdoors Uganda.
Nonetheless two variations of Mr Ongwen have emerged throughout his trial: certainly one of a brutal killer, the opposite of a traumatised baby soldier who grew as much as be a conflicted man.
His defence staff say even when convicted, he must be despatched residence for native Acholi leaders to supervise justice via their conventional reconciliation rituals – as has been accomplished with hundreds of different fighters earlier than him.