Acholi Clerics Welcome Dominic Ongwen’s 25 Year Sentence

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Religious leaders in Acholi Sub Region are pleased with the International Criminal Court`s judgement for handing a 25-year jail sentence to Dominic Ongwen , the former commander of the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.

The panel of three judges comprised of Peter Kouvacs, Raul Cano Pangalangan and led by Bertam Schmitt on Thursday morning delivered the judgment against the 45-year-old commander of the LRA`s Sinia Brigade for 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Norther Uganda between 2003 and 2005.   

Anglican Bishop Emeritus Nelson Onono Onweng, the Chairperson of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) said that they are happy with the ICC`s judgement describing it as ‘’considerate’’.   

Onweng argued that the judgement is justifiable by the fact that the court considered the plea of Acholi clerics who had earlier asked them to relieve Ongwen of the maximum sentence.   

They have been arguing that Ongwen was abducted whne he was just nine years old and the  circumstances he went through in the bush before rising through the ranks and offering himself to face justice. 

He added that the court also on the other hand was considerate to victims and survivors of the atrocities which were said to have been committed under the command of Ongwen.   

According to the ICC Rome Statute, Ongwen would have served a 30-year maximum jail term for the crimes he was found guilty of.

Onweng further welcomed the decision by the court to subtract from Ongwen`s jail term the five years he had spent in detention in The Hague Based Court since 2015.   

Archbishop of Gulu, His Grace John Baptist Odama said that the jail term is favourable to the convict, victims and survivors of the LRA atrocities.  

ARLPI played key roles in bringing an end to the two decades of the LRA insurgency through different means including mediation, spearheading the Juba Peace Talks as well as LRA`s commanders` referral to the ICC.  

Ongwen, who surrendered in 2015, is the first LRA top commander to be convicted by the ICC. 

In July 2005, the court issued sealed arrest warrants for the top five LRA commanders including Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. Lukwiya and Otti were killed in 2006 and 2007 respectively.  Odhiambo’s body was found in the Central African Republic in early 2015 while Kony remains at large in the vast forests of the Central African Republic and DRC.

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