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Kwoyelo Disowns “Added” Name on Charge Sheet :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Kwoyelo Disowns “Added” Name on Charge Sheet

While presenting an unsworn statement before a four-member panel of justices of the ICD sitting at Gulu High Court Tuesday, Kwoyelo said he has heard the court referring to him as Latoni yet it’s not his name.
Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the LRA speaks to one of the LRA victims at Gulu High Court on April 16 2024
Former Lord’s Resistance Army Rebel Commander Thomas Kwoyelo has disowned what he refers to as an added name on his charge sheet at the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court.

The suspect is recognized on the charge sheet as Kwoyelo Thomas alias Latoni who is indicted of 78 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, while presenting an unsworn statement before a four-member panel of justices of the ICD sitting at Gulu High Court Tuesday, Kwoyelo said he has heard the court referring to him as Latoni yet it’s not his name.

“My name is Kwoyelo Thomas, I heard they have added another name Latoni but I don’t know where they got the name from. I got confused a little because I thought this court was for some Latoni, not me, and I could be misplaced in someone’s case,” Kwoyelo told the court.

His submission came shortly after the court read out the 78 counts of charges against him relating to murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, pillaging, aggravated robbery, cruel treatment, enslavement, torture, rape, and outrages upon personal dignity.

The offenses are alleged to have been conducted by the accused between March 1993 and January 2005 in Kilak County, present-day Amuru District while still a commander in the LRA ranks.

In December last year, the court ruled that Kwoyelo had a case to answer in the 78 charges after dropping 15 others from the charge sheet.

However, while submitting his unsworn evidence in court, Kwoyelo for the first time recounted how he was abducted while still in Primary school at just 13 years old, consequently disrupting his early education.

Kwoyelo, who told the court he could now be 49 years old, noted that he was a young boy at the time of his abduction by LRA rebels dismissing what he describes as lies submitted to court by the state.

“When I joined Primary Three in the second term, I was 12 almost making 13 years. That’s when my studies were disrupted,” he said.

According to Kwoyelo, he was abducted at about 4 pm in 1987 in the second term while in Primary three at Pabbo Girls Primary School. At the time, he said Pabbo Girls Primary School enrolled young boys between eight- and 13-years old despite being an only-girls school.

He said on the fateful day, pupils had been dispersed from school and while running back home, he entered an ambush of LRA rebels.

“We were dispersed from school, and I was going back home. While other pupils would walk in groups, I would always run back home. When I started running, I got a group of pupils on the way. Among that group, there was one guy called Aranya, the son of Okot Luboroboro. I passed them and was ahead of them about 15 meters then I entered amid some armed men who came from the bush,” he said.

Kwoyelo told the court that the rebels stopped him and asked him why he was and where he was coming to which he told them he was heading home after school.

He said the rebels later started moving with him out of the area on grounds that other pupils who had seen them but managed to escape could report their presence.  Kwoyelo said he was among some 15 people abducted at the time but notes that after moving past River Unyama, he realized there were about 50.

Initiation rites Kwoyelo told the court that after camping for a night among the rebels, they were transferred to a different location within the Amuru District where the rebels took them through rituals.

The rituals according to Kwoyelo involved male and female abductees getting smeared with shear butter and some white clay he only got to learn is referred to as camouflage by the LRA rebels.

“They mixed all the shear butter and placed a sign of the cross on our foreheads, chest, abdomen, back, and feet. Even the white clay, they smeared it all over our body,” he said.

According to him, after the rituals, male abductees were told not to bathe for three days while female for four days. The abductees were monitored later and those whose clay marks faded were considered sick while those with visible marks were strong and healthy.  

Kwoyelo believed the ritual was done to instill fear since Kony is suspected to be possessing the holy spirit.

Court however adjourned Kwoyelo’s defence hearing to Wednesday when the accused returns to court.

Kwoyelo’s defense trial commenced on Monday at the Gulu High Court Circuit in Gulu City where he is offering unsworn versions of facts in the charges against him. Although his lawyers through Caleb Alaka had applied to the court requesting to be involved in cross-examining Kwoyelo during the defence trial, the ICD judges rejected it.

Justice Duncan Gaswaga, while delivering the decision of the panel of justices noted that since the accused has asserted the rights against self-incrimination by opting to give an unsworn statement, he loses the right to the assistance of the counsel.

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