Global Politics

Kony, Museveni and Accountability for Atrocities in Acholi: People’s Voices

Martha claimed that even among Kony’s abductees there is courtship and consensual sex,


By Livingstone Okumu Langol and Stephen Langole


The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel warlord, Joseph Kony who has been pursued for capture or elimination has up till now been elusive for close to four decades. This follows his pursuit by the one of the most war-hardened Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) with occasional support from the USA army, other regional forces, and recently the reputed Russian mercenary force, the Wagner Group.


Kony has also been wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2005 to stand trial for crimes against humanity among others, but now that he cannot be picked, the ICC plans to begin his trial in absentia come October 2024, and advertised for lawyers to represent him.


When the Black Star News sounded the locals on the impending trial of Joseph Kony, opinions ranged from outright exoneration of the suspect to shifting blame onto others, including on the sitting President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.


Martha Anyango, a roadside vendor a stone’s throw away on the Western side of Cuk pa Atuku on Moroto Road, who was herself a victim of Kony’s abduction on multiple occasions but escaped said, Kony bale peke, jo ne mukene aye lubal. Kony ocako tice ki mwolo ki lega, entodano aye pe gubedo ka teroenmaber, owekoenodoko ger (Kony did not commit any crime. He started his mission with humility, with prayer but it is the people he gathered around him who spoilt things, forcing him to turn quarrelsome and violent).


When the Black Star News put it to Martha that Kony was the leader and therefore could be blamed for the crimes of his subjects, she retorted that it is the subjects who turn around and blame Kony when Kony himself is clean. “People can defend themselves by shifting blames onto others. Shifting blames started all the way from Adam in the Bible.”


Martha added that it is the people in the Government who were the “big” criminals.  She noted that on one occasion when she was abducted along with several other pupils from Keyo Primary School, the Government forces came when the abductors had long left and bombed down their classrooms and later turned against civilians forcing more of them to flee into Kony rebel hideouts.


Martha claimed that even among Kony’s abductees there is courtship and consensual sex, not rape as claimed. “It is only when your husband dies that you face hardships. “Life here (vending on the streets) is as hard as in the bush, sometimes I even feel it would have been better in the bush,” she claimed.


Obong Donasiano, a builder at AlokolumKirombe Village said, “The big man (Museveni) is still lucky because he is a sitting President. When he leaves and the son takes over as they seem to be planning, even his son will not prevent him from facing the ICC for the same crimes Kony is being accused of,” said Obong. “The big man (Museveni) committed many crimes. Kony used to take our cows one by one but Museveni’s forces drove the entire herd of cattle away from my grandfather’s kraal. They did the same to Zachary and Ribamoi’s kraal.” “His forces, a battalion called Lokile who were operating in Nwoya sodomised many men; young children were placed in mortars and hit dead using pestles,” he claimed. “They (Museveni’s forces) were acting on his order.”


“The painful thing is, they claimed they will compensate people for their cattle. “We got two rounds of (compensation) payments, UGX 50,000 (USD13) per cow, for a few cows. “What could UGX 50,000 do, were they paying for chickens?” he asked.


Asked whether Kony should equally face the ICC, he laughed it off. “Kony is a spirit. “He even knows what we are talking about now. “How will they catch Kony?” “They would have caught him long ago if it was easy. They are wasting their time,” he said.


Dr. Oola Benjamin, a PhD holder in Peace and Security Studies said the move to try Joseph Kony in absentia is okay in the legal perspective but from the victims’ perspective it amounts to nothing. “In the Acholi perspective, it does not give a chance for culprit to confess the atrocities committed and apologise as a precedent for reconciliation as should be the case” Oola asserts that the (Kony) trial would simply be symbolic with a crisis of legitimacy.

Dr. Oola notes that if there is room for awarding reparation to the victims, then it would be better, but wondered whether that can happen in a circumstance the accused is tried in absentia.

Dr. Oola noted that the limitation of the ICC is that many would be potentials for trial are left out, since in the Ugandan case, there could have been counts against the Government’s UPDF commanders and the commander in chief (President Museveni) who could have been held culpable for certain acts.

Dr. Oola noted further that another serious limitation of the ICC is its inability to enforce arrest warrants though their indictment can act as a kind of deterrence against impunity and other crimes. He noted that former President of Sudan, Omar El Bashir, could not be arrested confirming the ineptitude of the ICC.

Banya Lalar, a motorcycle taxi operator in Gulu City is of the view that both Joseph Kony and President Yoweri Museveni should face trial at the ICC since both of them are guilty of crimes against humanity.

“The Museveni’s UPDF forces have killed many people in Northern Uganda; let him (Museveni) be indicted by the ICC,” Lalar said.

Lalar said the fact that the ICC is targeting only Joseph Kony means the international court is biased.

Akwongo Joska, 66 years old, from LamogiPailyec clan, said the first person to be tried by the ICC should be President Yoweri Museveni. “I personally lost so many relatives in the Museveni regime, and therefore, if we need justice, let both of them face the ICC.”

Ojok Simon, a 31-year-old market vendor in Gulu City, noted that both Museveni and Joseph Kony caused massive destruction of both lives and property.

“There is a saying in Acholi that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. In that context, the people in Northern Uganda bore the brunt of war between President Museveni and Joseph Kony.” “Both ‘elephants’ are responsible for the suffering of the people,” Ojok said.

Oluk Omara, 21 years old says beyond Kony and Museveni other UPDF commanders and the LRA high command should also face the ICC for crimes against humanity. “If five LRA high command have already been indicted by the ICC, what about the UPDF commanders? Omara wondered. “To me, I think the ICC was biased, not to indict top Ugandan army commanders,” Omara argued.

Rita Acomo, a nurse at Cuk pa Atuku, said that she could not pass a judgment on Kony, neither could she pass a judgment on the sitting President. She added that Kony is a spirit vessel and could have made a very good diviner if he was around. “Let God judge them, we humans are not qualified to be their judges,” she philosophised.










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