Bensouda in Museveni’s turf to meet ICC witnesses

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is visiting Uganda and is expected to meet witnesses in the Lord Resistance Army Dominic Ongwen’s case.

Ms Bensouda will also update people on the progress of the case against Mr Ongwen, a senior LRA rebel leader and also renew contacts with possible witnesses during a five-day tour of Uganda.

Mr Ongwen, a child-soldier-turned-warlord in Uganda’s LRA, appeared before the ICC in The Hague for the first time in January, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ms Bensouda on Friday pleaded with LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony to surrender, vowing he would receive a fair trial just as his deputy faces.

Kony is the last LRA rebel indicted by the ICC believed and is still at large.

“Leave the bush and encourage other members of the LRA to do the same. Stop committing crimes against your own people and others, do the right thing and surrender,” Ms Bensouda said.

“The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but turn they surely will, let us leave justice to take its course.

“Let us embrace the independent and impartial judicial process offered by the court as a means of bringing healing and closure for victims of mass crimes,” the ICC prosecutor said.

The LRA is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion launched in northern Uganda almost three decades ago.

Known as the “White Ant”, Ongwen was notorious for leading his troops on punishment raids, which often involved slicing off the lips and ears of victims.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against President Yoweri Museveni’s newly established government.

But over the years it has moved across the porous borders of the region. The LRA shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern Central African Republic and Sudan.

“Let me be equally clear to all other LRA fighters and followers: you have nothing to fear from the ICC. We are only concerned with those top five commanders against whom the court has issued warrants of arrest,” Ms Bensouda added.

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