By Elias Biryabarema
A senior Lord’s Resistance Army commander who surrendered last week to the US military in the Central African Republic (CAR) will be handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial, a Ugandan army spokesman said on Tuesday.
Ongwen, wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, is a child recruit who rose through the ranks of the LRA, a group which first took up arms against Uganda in the late 1980s and gained a reputation for massacres and mutilating victims.
Uganda had earlier said Ongwen’s fate was being discussed between Uganda, a critic of the ICC, and the United States, which is not a signatory to the court’s Rome Statute, as well as other African parties.
“It has been finally decided that Dominic Ongwen will be tried at The Hague. Victims will get justice as much as Ongwen,” army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told Reuters.
“Arrangements for his transfer are being made and it will be CAR that will transfer him,” he said, without giving details.
The Central African Republic, one of the nations where the Lord’s Resistance Army has been active in recent years, is a signatory.
Uganda, which in the past sought the international court’s help in bringing LRA chief Joseph Kony to justice, has more recently accused the court of seeking to target Africans, a common sentiment in Africa.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in Nairobi last month that African states should quit the court.
Washington is not a member of the ICC, though it has cooperated with it to varying degrees in the past.
The arrest of Ongwen, 34, is a major success in the campaign to crush the Lord’s Resistance Army which has involved African troops with US military support.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, a former choirboy who claimed to be guided by spirits only he could hear. The group has been accused of abducting children to serve as fighters and sex slaves and mutilating prisoners.
In a message first broadcast on Central African Republic radio, Ongwen called for other LRA fighters to surrender and said Museveni had promised to pardon him under an amnesty. Uganda denied this, saying such a step was not offered those accused of crimes against humanity.