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Sudan President Bashir was behind LRA - ex-rebel commander

Thomas Kweyelo (C) talking to his lawyers

Thomas Kweyelo (C) talking to his lawyers

Ousted Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was behind the formation of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) outfit that terrorised northern Uganda for years according to former rebel commander, Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni.

Kwoyelo's defense trial which began this week Tuesday at the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High court was on Thursday prematurely adjourned by the trial judge after Kwoyelo said he was exhausted. At the time, Kwoyelo had already appeared before the four-member panel of the ICD judges to present his defense against 78 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The former colonel in LRA has since Tuesday been presenting an unsworn defense in court against the charges relating to murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, cruel treatment, enslavement, torture, rape, and outrages upon personal dignity.

He told court that before the famous name of LRA, the rebels were called Lakwena until a meeting between top leaders and the then President al-Bashir. At the time, according to Kwoyelo, LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony was deputized by Otti Lagony who had replaced Komakech Omona who died of natural causes at a hospital in Khartoum, Sudan.

In the hierarchy of the LRA according to Kwoyelo, Okello Matata at the time deputized Otti, while Caesar Acellam was appointed the director of intelligence. Okello Can Odonga was at the time the director of operations while Nyeko Tolbert Yasin was the chief political advisor (CPA).

He said the LRA also later formed a new brigade named Trinkle, consisting of high-ranking rebels from the high command. The Trinkle brigade was commanded by Odongo Acellam, an aide-de-camp (ADC) of Kony. Sam Kolo at the time was the LRA spokesperson while Brig Kenneth Banya served as the elder's representative.

Kwoyelo has been facing trial since 2018 on allegations of community war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between March 1993 and January 2005. He has been in custody at Luzira Maximum Prison since 2009 following his capture in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

On the third day, Thursday Kwoyelo who appeared exhausted paused midway and requested the court to grant him rest, arguing he had spoken for long and felt thirsty. He also told the court he wasn’t feeling well as a result of high blood pressure.

“At this point, I want to apologize to the court and request that I be allowed to rest a bit because I have spoken for a long time and am thirsty. I also have high blood pressure,” Kwoyelo told the court.

Justice Michael Elubu, the presiding judge was forced to adjourn the court proceeding for 30 minutes. However, when court resumed after half an hour, Kwoyelo’s defence lawyer, Dalton Opwonya told the court they were unable to continue with the matter and asked for an adjournment citing their client needed a medical examination.

Caleb Alaka, Kwoyelo’s lawyer said they had had an interaction with the accused who expressed concern about his health and needed close medical assessment. Alaka said it would be in the best interest if the defence trial is adjourned to enable the prison authorities to carry out a medical examination. He said their client can only proceed to defend himself when in good health.

The defence plea wasn’t objected by the assistant director of public prosecution Charles Kamuli. Justice Elubu adjourned the trial to Friday morning when Kwoyelo is expected to reappear before the court. Kwoyelo had earlier spent about half an hour presenting to court accounts of his life in the LRA captivity including his involvement as medical personnel in sick bays between Uganda and Sudan. 

Without specifying the years, Kwoyelo told the court how fighters who were in the sick bays were unable to go for operations due to the nature of their work attending to and healing the sick unlike those in ‘convoys’.    

“At the sick bay, they told us if you go to operations, the path you used will attract the enemies. So, all provisions were brought to you in the sick bay. They say you already work, and your duties are to assist the sick. If you treat them and they heal, then you would have accomplished your duty,” he said.

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