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Kwoyelo Admits "Marrying" Girls, Asks For Pardon :: Uganda Radionetwork

Kwoyelo Admits "Marrying" Girls, Asks For Pardon

He told the Court that by the time he "married" them after an initiation by Kony.
Thomas Kwoyelo (L) interacts with his lawyers Borris Godfrey Anyuru (C) and Evans Ochieng on Monday April 30 2024 at Gulu High Court.

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Former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighter, Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni has pleaded with the court asking it to forgive him for having married minors for "wives". It's criminal in Uganda for one to have canal knowledge of minors. International conventions also protect women and girls from sexually violent crimes during armed conflict.

The LRA kidnapped thousands of children from Lango and Achol. Children were recruited into the brutal rebellion. 

The top commanders would force young girls into sex enslavement or what they claimed as marriage. Most of the enslaved girls ended up bearing children with top commanders including Thomas Kwoyelo.

Kwoyelo who is facing trial in the Gulu-based court did not deny the fact that some of the abducted children or women ended up being sexually enslaved to commanders including himself.

He spoke in Luo telling the court that he did not force the girls but wooed them to become his wives after Joseph Kony had anointed them. Kwoyelo denied having personally conscripted the women and girls into sex slavery.

Luo Bite

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“I don't deny that I stayed with these girls because these girls were already women and had become my wives. I want to request this court that if it finds that I committed crimes against them, the court should forgive me,” Kwoyelo submitted to the court Monday.

Kwoyelo was concluding his defense at the International Crimes Division of the High Court where he is facing crimes against humanity charges. 

The charges relate to rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity, and violence to life allegedly committed between 1997 and 2004 in Kilak Hills, Olinga Village, Labala Parish, Pabbo Sub-County in present-day Amuru district.

The former colonel in the LRA ranks was particularly defending himself against the testimonies of protected state witnesses named LW and NS on allegations of committing crimes against humanity.

Court records indicate the witnesses were abducted at the age of 11 in 1996 and 1997 respectively and were later married at 13 years by Kwoyelo.

Kwoyelo however told the court that he did not know who among the LRA leaders in the 'convoy' abducted the girls although he acknowledged after their abduction, they were distributed and stayed in the homes of senior LRA commanders.

According to Kwoyelo, the girls had been assisting wives of LRA commanders until 1999 when LRA leader Joseph Kony ordered him to move to Sudan with women and young girls who lost their ‘husbands’ during battles. 

He told the court that after reaching Sudan, he handed all the widows to Joseph Kony who later initiated an anointing by dipping them in the river and shaving off all their hairs.

Kwoyelo said Kony gave out an order that the women shouldn’t be wooed into a relationship until nine months elapsed when they were ready for marriage adding that he later got his 'wives' after the nine months.

Luo bite

//Cue in: "Kare ma giwiro...

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Translation“After the girls were anointed, I also got mine among the widows, I wooed them and got married to them in 2000.  Among those I got married to, God blessed me, and they produced children with me,” he said.

He, however, asked the court to forgive him, in any case, he committed the crime of marrying the young girls arguing that they were abducted and taken in captivity as young girls.

Kwoyelo also told the court that he is seeking forgiveness from the parents of the girls and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

“My request to the court is that if this matter ends, I ask this court to send my voice to the President that I would like to meet him and talk face-to-face with him because there are other issues that we need to talk about. He has been a soldier, not a civilian, and there are things I would like to advise him about the military,” Kwoyelo submitted to the court.

Kwoyelo started presenting unsworn defence against the 78 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity on April 15 this year months after the court ruled in December last year that he had a case to answer.

His defence lawyers had earlier told the court they would be presenting 13 defence witnesses in court immediately after Kwoyelo concludes putting up his defence.

However, Caleb Alaka, Kwoyelo’s Defence lawyer told the court today that some of the witnesses they had lined up haven’t responded to their calls. He also noted that the defence lawyers reassessed the testimony of one of the witnesses from Luzira Maximum Prison but found it not essential adding that it won't be adduced in court anymore.

Caleb told the court the defence has now lined up two witnesses, an expert and a cultural leader who are ready to testify but prayed for a short adjournment for defence to look for other witnesses who are in long distances.  

Charles Richard Kamuli, the Assistant Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) however noted that the two defence witnesses are not ordinary witnesses arguing that the state needs time to read through their statement.

Robert Mackay, the victim's Counsel equally observed that the two witnesses are not ordinary arguing they can change the bearing of the case and thus there is a need for disclosure of their statements by the defence.

In a ruling of the trial panel of Justices of the ICD read by Justice Michael Elubu, the court declined to grant defence for adjournment arguing that it’s a tradition of the court for disclosure to be made timely. He consequently adjourned the trial hearing till Tuesday morning.

Kwoyelo is the first LRA commander facing trial in the domestic court over charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity following years of LRA campaigns in Northern Uganda. He has however denied all the charges in his defence arguing they were fabricated against him. 

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