Fugitive warlord Joseph Kony’s feared militia deliberately targeted civilians in its conflict with Ugandan government forces and murdered indiscriminately, an International Criminal Court prosecutor said yesterday.
Ben Gumpert also accused the regime of abducting children to turn into killers “steeped in blood,” forcing girls and women into “marriages” with fighters and even ordering cannibalism.
Mr Gumpert spoke at the start of a hearing to establish whether evidence against Dominic Ongwen, one of the most senior commanders in Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, is strong enough to merit putting him on trial.
Ongwen, first indicted in 2005 and sent to the court a year ago after surrendering to US forces in the Central African Republic, is the only member of Kony’s murderous army in the court’s custody.
Kony remains free despite years of efforts in Northern Uganda and neighbouring countries to capture him.
Ongwen faces 70 charges including murder, rape, torture, forced marriage and using child soldiers stemming from his alleged involvement in attacks on refugee camps in Uganda in 2003 and 2004.
Originating in Uganda in the 1980s as a tribal uprising, the LRA’s rebellion is one of Africa’s longest and most brutal. At the peak the group razed villages, raped women and amputated limbs. It is notorious for recruiting boys to fight and taking girls as sex slaves.
“Nursing mothers whose babies slowed up the progress or who simply cried too loudly saw them killed or thrown into the bush and left behind,” Mr Gumpert said.
Abducted children were forced to perform “individual acts of torture and murder designed to convince recently abducted children that they were so steeped in blood that there could be no acceptance for them back in civilian society,” Mr Gumpert said.
As a brigade commander, Ongwen told abductees “on at least one occasion, to kill, cook and eat civilians,” Mr Gumpert said.
Ongwen will have to enter pleas only if he is to stand trial. Mr Gumpert acknowledged Ongwen himself was a victim of the LRA, having been abducted and forced into its ranks as a 14-year-old.