A defence witness in the trial of former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen on Tuesday told judges at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers committed atrocities in northern Uganda.
Mzee Yusuf Adek said in some instances the government soldiers masqueraded as Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), committed atrocities in the north and blamed it on the rebels.
The witness was being questioned by defence lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo about his recollection of the northern Uganda war before the ICC.
“When I was imprisoned, some soldiers were brought into the same cell where I was locked up. They told me how they were ordered to masquerade as LRA rebels to commit atrocities,” Mzee Adek told the court.
“Some of us were told to behave as those who were in the bush,” he quoted the soldiers as saying.
The witness also told three judges of the court that Ongwen did not command the attack on Lukodi camp in Gulu District as alleged by the ICC prosecutor.
“When I came back from prison in August 2003, people in our home area where Lukodi is located told me it was some man who commanded that attack. I still see that man moving about in public. Ongwen’s name then started coming up after he was handed over to the ICC but he was not the one that commanded the attack,” Mzee Adek said.
“There are so many things that happened during the war and it’s not easy to narrate all in a day,” he said.
Ongwen, currently under detention at the ICC, presented Mzee Adek as his first witness. He faces 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the ICC, which charges he has since denied.
Ongwen is also accused of unleashing attacks on four internally displaced persons’ camps in Pajule [formerly in Kitgum, now in Pader], Abok in Oyam, Lukodi in Gulu and Odek in Omoro District between July 2002 and December 2005.
Mzee Adek also said President Museveni established the IDP camps in the north purportedly to end the war between the LRA and government.
“People were forced into the camps and anyone who did not return to the camp by 5pm daily was treated as a rebel,” Mr Adek said as he recollected how encampment destroyed moral values in Acholiand.
Earlier in the day, Mr Ayena told Daily Monitor there was need for the government of Uganda to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He said He said this would give those who committed atrocities the chance to open up and confess how the whole thing happened.
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