After all the mayhem visited upon the people of northern Uganda by the notorious Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA), it is unfortunate that there are those in the political realm who are pushing for amnesty to be granted to Major General Caesar Acellam, one of LRA’s top commanders, who was captured by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) this month.
This group of Kony and Acellam sympathizers need to be reminded of the horrendous crimes committed by the rag-tag LRA bandits against their fellow country men. The mobile LRA gang was started by Kony and his henchmen in January 1987 and went on to wreck havoc in northern Uganda for over 20 years, killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians and driving well over 2 million people out of their homes. One of their killing fields was at Purengo, where they executed 30 civilians in 1989 and later massacred another 400 in Lamwo county, Kitgum district. They did not even spare young children when they raided St. Mary’s college in Aboke Apac district on October 10, 1996 and abducted 139 students taking them as sex slaves and enlisting others in the LRA army.
Kony and his group of butchers have murdered an estimated 30,000 people during the execution of their two-decade, ruthless rebellion in the northern part of the country. Under Kony and the now captured Acellam’s command, the LRA used machetes and hoes to maim their victims, chopping lips and ears off their captives. They raided schools and forced students to fight and kill their own relatives. Many of the surviving victims will never recover from the trauma visited upon them by the blood-stained hands of Kony, Acellam and those under their command.
Because of this near unprecedented cruelty, Kony, Acellam, and the wider LRA deserve no sympathy in the civilised world.
It has been 12 years since the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute), the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome. The statute, which came into force on July 1, 2002 and has since been ratified by 110 countries including Uganda, has drastically changed international criminal law as we have come to know it .
The Rome Statute, and its implementing agency the International Criminal Court, has in the short period of its existence ensured that perpetrators of crimes against humanity do not escape the rule of law. And the list of indicted suspects grows by the day; the latest being those accused of perpetuating crimes against humanity during the 2007/8 post election violence in Kenya.
Kony’s deputies – Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya – have also been indicted but are yet to face trial at the ICC. They stand accused of 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the people of northern Uganda in the last 20 years. Acellam, although not indicted by the ICC, was part of the criminal acts of Kony and the LRA for all these years: Acellam must not be allowed to hide from justice under the amnesty law.
Kony and Acellam have long duped the international community and the leadership in this country, costing the Ugandan taxpayer billions of shillings in wasted spending on the joke that was the Juba peace talks. It was clear from the onset of the talks that Kony – aware of the heinous crimes he has committed against humanity – would never surrender without putting up a fight.
That’s why there is no option but for the UPDF, supported by Uganda’s regional and international allies, to continue their pursuit of LRA until Kony and all his commanders are captured and have them answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC either here in Kampala or at the Hague.
Once a person has committed war crimes, as spelt out in the Rome Statute, then that person should not benefit from the provisions of our amnesty law. War crimes and crimes against humanity are international in nature and suspects can be picked from anywhere in the world by any spirited individual or state to arraigned them at the ICC for trial.
The UPDF should use all its capabilities and bring all resources to bear in this new effort to find Kony and his commanders to have them answer for their criminal acts. The UPDF should earn the support of the people of Uganda and hope our brothers and sisters in northern Uganda never suffer again the vicious brutality of Kony and the LRA.