The Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF
has been faulted for failing to defend civilians in the Internally Displaced People’s-IDP camps during
the LRA-led insurgency in Northern Uganda.
Criminal Court (ICC) made the observation during a session in which a former Warlord Dominic Ogwen, who commanded LRA's Sinia Brigade, was convicted of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, among them murder,
pillaging, rape, sexual enslavement, torture, and abduction.
Many of the charges stem from attacks committed in Pajule IDP camp on October 10, 2003, Odek IDP camp on April
Lukodi IDP camp on May 19, 2004, and Abok IDP camps on June 29, 2004.
The attack in Lukodi, which took place on May 19, 2004, left more than
60 people dead.
ICC Presiding Judge Bertram
Schmitt said that in all attacks, the UPDF and Local Defense Unit Personnel (LDU) failed
to protect civilians and fled in panic, whenever the rebels struck. The court also observed that while more than 1.5 million people were kept in camps, they starved with no food and endured deplorable living conditions.
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Sarah Kihika, the
head of the office of the International Centre for Transitional Justice says that the
the revelation of the systematic nature of attacks on the four IDP camps also noted
that UPDF persistently failed to defend the civilians.
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Maria Mabinty Kamara,
the ICC outreach Coordinator says that the matter of UPDF failing to protect
Ugandans is not up for debate as the judges found reasonable grounds to say
that the communities were attacked.
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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said that Government was never a defendant in this case but the complainant and that the remarks by the judges are of little or no value at all. Opondo added that Ogwen had the opportunity to take advantage
of the amnesty law but refused to and that should be a lesson to that
still in fugitive.
"Nevertheless Government is happy a guilty verdict was handed to Ongwen sending a message that however far away and long it may take, the long arm of just and law will eventually prevail.
Attempts to speak
to the Defense Spokesperson Brigadier
Flavia Byekwaso and her Deputy Deo Akiiki were futile by last evening.