Situation in Uganda

Map of Uganda (by courtesy of the ICC)

On 16 December 2003 the Government of Uganda referred the situation concerning the rebellion in the north of the country to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The situation relates to the period of conflict between July 2002 and June 2004. During this civil war thousands of persons were killed, abducted and forced to become members of rebel groups or to become slaves by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

 

The ICC Prosecutor declared that his office would study both crimes committed by the LRA and crimes committed by the Ugandan governmental forces, selecting the cases according to their gravity.

 

On 14 October 2005, the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC unsealed arrest warrants for five of the LRA’s top leaders. They are: Joseph Kony,Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen Vincent Otti and Raska Lukwiya.
All remain at large.


Joseph Kony is the leader, chairman and commander of the LRA. According to the ICC arrest warrant, in mid-2002 he allegedly ordered LRA forces to begin a campaign of attacks against civilians in Uganda. During 2003 he allegedly ordered LRA forces to kill loot and abduct civilians, including those living in camps.
The arrest warrant against him lists 12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes, including murder, sexual enslavement, rape and forced enlisting of children.

 

Vincent Otti was the vice-chairman and second-in-command of the LRA. He is charged with eleven counts of crimes against humanity and twenty-one counts of war crimes, including murder, abduction, sexual enslavement, mutilation, as well as mass burnings of houses and looting of camp settlements.

 

Okot Odhiambo is a Deputy Army Commander of the LRA. He is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and eight counts of war crimes.


Dominic Ongwen is a Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the LRA.  He is charged with seven counts on the basis of individual criminal responsibility including three counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes.

 

Raska Lukwiya was a high-ranking commander of the LRA. He was charged with four counts on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility, including one count of crimes against humanity, and three counts of war crimes. On 12 August 2006 he died in Mucwini, northern Uganda, and the proceeding against him were terminated on 11 July 2007.


Background

 

The Republic of Uganda has a long history of extreme violence and ethnic conflict. The conflict in Uganda has persisted since the successful insurgency in 1986 of a rebel group led by current President Yoweri Museveni. Since President Museveni and his National Resistance Movement took power and installed a "no-party" political system, there have been several rebel movements based in northern Uganda. The most powerful, the LRA, a sectarian Christian militant group led by former altar boy Joseph Kony, continues to fight the government.

 

 The conflict has been the scene of numerous serious human rights violations, including summary executions, massacres of civilians, torture and mutilation, recruitment of child soldiers, rape and sexual abuse, forcible displacement, and the destruction of civilian property. The LRA has abducted an estimated 20,000 children in northern Uganda to serve as soldiers or sex slaves.

 

In 2005 the conflict took a dramatic turn, as the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Kony and top LRA commanders on charges including war crimes, and the rebels began pulling out of Uganda and establishing bases in the DR Congo.

 

On 14 July 2006 Peace talks between LRA rebels and the Ugandan government began in Juba, Sudan. However, outstanding ICC arrest warrants, stalled political progress, and unclear commitment by both parties remain stumbling blocks which hinder positive development.

 

In February 2008, the Ugandan government and the LRA signed a series of documents in peace talks mediated by Riek Machar, the Vice President of Southern Sudan. Despite the mediation efforts, Kony and the LRA leaders have vowed not to sign a final peace agreement with the government in Kampala until the ICC charges have been dropped.

 

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