An Ex-Colonel in the Lord’s Resistance Army Goes on Trial in Uganda


Prosecutors in Uganda’s first war crimes case allege that Thomas Kwoyelo, a colonel in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and his men, abducted children, stole animals, and massacred civilians. He pleads not guilty on all 93 counts, which include charges for murder, rape, and enslavement.

The prosecution made its opening statement on March 12 in the high court in Gulu. The trial is seen as a test case for the court’s International Crimes Division, one of the first domestic war crimes courts in Africa. Established in 2008, after failed peace talks with the LRA, it has convicted human traffickers and terrorists. But Mr. Kwoyelo, captured a decade ago in Congo, is the first LRA rebel to appear before it.

Many in northern Uganda do not think he should face trial at all. The defense argues that Mr. Kwoyelo is a victim, claiming he was abducted as a child while walking to school and forced to follow orders for fear of being shot. One local politician thinks he should go through a “traditional” ceremony, which puts reconciliation above punishment. Mr. Kwoyelo’s former lawyer complains that the court has only investigated the LRA and has done little to investigate alleged army atrocities.   

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The Economist