This is Life of the Law. I’m Nancy Mullane, Executive Producer, and as you know from our last episode, part one of our series on Uganda, we are leaving our comfort zone of the United States and United States law and we’re going to another country, Uganda, which is in East Africa. And we’re looking at how the laws work or don’t work; how the international community plays a role in those laws when things go really badly. Our story began with part one, and if you haven’t heard part one, I encourage you to do that now. It was called Abducted. And in part one we followed the lives of two of the 60,000 children abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by a man named Joseph Kony. We met Samuel, who was abducted at the age of 11, and Beatrice who was abducted at the age of 15. After they were abducted, they were taken, like many of the children, to southern Sudan and held captive for years in the LRA’s camps, where they were forced to loot, and kill. The girls were raped and forced act as captive wives and bear the children of the commanders. We left the story in part one with this desperate attempt by the parents to get their children back. From Gulu, Uganda, where many of the abductions took place, our reporter on the series, Gladys Oroma takes us in part two to attempts by the international community to find some kind of resolution, and attempts by the international courts to get involved, and by the parents to form an activist organization to reach out to their children, and tell ask to come home. We do want to warn you, some of the story you’re about to hear, you may find disturbing. Part two – ESCAPE.
BY THE LATE 90’S AND EARLY 2000’S, MORE THAN DECADE AFTER JOSEPH KONY AND REBELS WITH THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY BEGAN ABDUCTING CHILDREN AND KILLING PEOPLE IN NORTHERN UGANDA, LITTLE WAS BEING DONE BY THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT TO STOP THE VIOLENCE.
ISAAC OKWIR: The political situation in Uganda was obviously a divided situation; and motions raised by either the opposition or government were in most cases not supported by the other. The failure to agree on how to end the conflict contributed to the sustainability of the LRA.
OKWIR ISAAC IS THE HEAD OF JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATIONS PROJECT. HE SAYS POLITICAL DIVISIONS WITHIN UGANDA MADE COMBATING THE LRA AND ENDING THE WAR IN NORTHERN UGANDA DIFFICULT.
ISAAC OKWIR: The political leaders were not united in as far as combating the LRA forces. This gave leeway to the LRA to remain in committing atrocities, in carrying out their operations.
IF THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT WAS UNABLE TO STOP THE LRA’S VIOLENCE, WHAT WAS THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DOING TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE, THE CHILDREN OF UGANDA, FROM THE LRA’S TERROR? IT WASN’T UNTIL THE MID-90’S, MORE THAN A DECADE AFTER BEGAN ABDUCTING THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN THAT THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY BEGAN TO PAY ATTENTION.
ERIN BAINES: People were greatly concerned about the practice of forced marriage and the knowledge that a number of women were being held long term in the LRA and forced to act as wives and give birth to the children of senior commanders.
ERIN BAINES IS PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA AND IS CO-FOUNDER OF THE JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION PROJECT. BAINES AND THE PROJECT WORKED DIRECTLY WITH PARENTS OF ABDUCTED CHILDREN AND COMMUNITIES TO GET INTERNATIONAL LEADERS TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN UGANDA. ULTIMATELY, BAINES SAYS, IT WAS ACTIVISM BY THE PARENTS, SENDING MESSAGES TO THEIR CHILDREN OVER RADIO STATIONS, PUTTING OUT LEAFLETS, THAT GOT THE ATTENTION OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
ERIN BAINES: The real actor and leader in this was actually Canada.
IN 2000, CANADA STEPPED IN TO PRESSURE REGIONAL PLAYERS TO WITHDRAW THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE LRA.
ERIN BAINES: Canada, during the World Conference on War Affected Children in 2000, came up with a deal with the Sudanese government to try and withdraw its support to the rebel groups and help release the children.
IN 2001, AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON THE WORLD TRADES CENTER, BAINES SAYS THE US TOOK AN INTEREST IN UGANDA AND LISTED THE LRA AS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION.
ERIN BAINES: I think the Americans approached war in Uganda by building a strong alliance with the Ugandan government and military as they saw this as a wider threat to peace and security in the region, particularly after September 11th 2001 where they recognized a number of the groups involved in the attacks in the United States had been taking refuge and training in the region, primarily in Sudan. So the US response was largely to broker peace in the region, bring security to the region as a primary focus, getting the children out was a secondary one.
BY THE TIME THE US STEPPED IN, THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN HAD BEEN ABDUCTED AND WERE STILL LIVING IN LRA CAPTIVITY. BUT NOW THE CHILDREN HAD GROWN. THEY WERE YOUNG ADULTS, WITH CHILDREN OF THEIR OWN BORN IN CAPTIVITY. AFTER YEARS WITH THE LRA, AND AFTER BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED, AND FORCED TO FIGHT, FORCED TO LOOT, AND PARTICIPATE IN MUTILATIONS AND ABDUCTIONS, THE CHILDREN WERE BOTH FEARED AND AFRAID.
ISAAC OKWIR: It was, I would describe it as a very hard to live in condition.
OKWIR ISAAC OF JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION PROJECT SAYS FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN NORTHERN UGANDA, LIFE WAS TERROR.
ISAAC OKWIR: Because the LRA operations was too much and the civilian population I would say were at the mercy of the LRA.
TO TRY AND PROTECT PEOPLE IN NORTHERN UGANDA FROM MORE VIOLENCE AND ABDUCTIONS BY LRA, IN THE MID-90’S, THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT BEGAN ESTABLISHING WHAT THEY CALLED “INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE CAMPS” OR IDPS. THE CAMPS WERE GUARDED BY UGANDAN SOLDIERS. BUT THERE WERE PROBLEMS.
ISAAC OKWIR: Because while people were living in the IDP camps they were still being attacked, people were still being abducted by the rebels, people were still being killed, properties were still being looted from IDP camp.
BY 2006 MORE THAN TWO MILLION UGANDANS OR SEVEN PERCENT OF THE COUNTRY’S POPULATION, LIVED IN IDPS. INSIDE THE CAMPS, PEOPLE SURVIVED ON NOT ENOUGH FOOD DONATED BY NON-GOVERNMENTAL RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS. AND LEAVING THE CAMPS TO FIND WATER OR FOOD, WAS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.
ISAAC OKWIR: So the situation was still very bad. Roads were inaccessible. You cannot move in northern Uganda from one district to another district. By 7pm you cannot go and fetch water. So the rebels were everywhere.
AS THE LRA CONTINUED TO ABDUCT CHILDREN THROUGHOUT NORTHERN UGANDA, THEY KILLED THOSE WHO TRIED TO ESCAPE. STILL THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN ABDUCTED AND HELD CAPTIVE FOR MONTHS AND YEARS, RISKED THEIR LIVES TRYING TO ESCAPE LRA CAPTIVITY. WHEN THE LRA WAS ENGAGED IN BATTLES WITH THE UGANDAN TROOPS, SOME SAW THE BATTLE AS THEIR CHANCE TO ESCAPE AND EITHER SURRENDERED TO OR WERE CAPTURED BY GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS. SAMUEL AKENA WAS ABDUCTED AT THE AGE OF 11.
SAMUEL AKENA: I escaped because of my friend. The three of us started planning while we were in south Sudan.
AFTER FOUR YEARS IN CAPTIVITY WITH THE LRA IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, SAMUEL SAYS HE ESCAPED IN 2004, WHEN HE WAS SENT ON A MISSION TO LOCATE FIREARMS BURIED IN NORTHERN UGANDA.
SAMUEL AKENA: They selected the three of us among the many to come to Uganda to locate the firearms which were hidden at the border. We came and stayed in Uganda for some time. Then Kony ordered that all his escorts to be sent. By then I was not working as a signaler, but I could hear what other signalers were discussing. I told my friend and he said we should not return to southern Sudan. We met the other friend and told him that people are returning.
INSTEAD OF RETURNING TO SOUTHERN SUDAN, SAMUEL AND HIS FRIENDS ESCAPED.
SAMUEL AKENA: It was during the rainy seasons, so it started raining heavily. It would rain from 4am up to mid-day. We were beaten by the rain and nobody was thinking about one another. There was a gap in our movement. The three of us were walking together so we were saying since there is a big gap between us and we want to escape and we escaped and the three of us all had handguns.
BEATRICE OCWEE WAS ABDUCTED BY LRA REBELS FROM HER UNCLE’S HOME IN NORTHERN UGANDA WHEN SHE WAS 15. IN 2002, AFTER MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS IN CAPTIVITY, BEATRICE SAYS SAW HER OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE WHEN SHE WAS SENT ON A MISSION TO LOOT FOOD.
BEATRICE OCWEE: I escaped when we were in Uganda because there was fighting in Sudan between the LRA and the government army and most of the rebels were in Uganda.
WHEN BEATRICE WAS ABDUCTED IN 1995, SHE AND THE OTHER CHILDREN WERE FORCED TO WALK FROM NORTHERN UGANDA TO THE LRA’S PERMANENT COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN. ON THE LONG MARCH, BEATRICE SAYS SHE WAS RAPED BY OKOT ODIAMBO, ONE OF THE LRA’S TOP COMMANDERS. WHEN HER GROUP REACHED THE LRA’S COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, ODIAMBO MADE HER ONE OF HIS CAPTIVE WIVES.
JOSEPH KONY, THE LEADER OF THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY WAS ABLE TO ESTABLISH AN LRA COMPOUND IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, BECAUSE THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT OFFERED THE LRA REFUGE IN A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL ARRANGEMENT. THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT WAS ENGAGED IN A 20-YEAR WAR WITH ANOTHER REBEL ARMY KNOWN AS THE SUDANESE PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY OR SPLA. THE SPLA WAS FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE FROM THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT.
THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT OFFERED TO GIVE THE LRA REFUGE AND PROVIDE THEM WITH SUPPORT, AND IN EXCHANGE, THE LRA WOULD BATTLE THE SPLA FOR CONTROL OF SOUTHERN SUDAN. THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT WAS ALSO PROVIDING SUPPORT TO THE SPLA. BUT IN 2002, THE LRA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT BEGAN TO FRAY. THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT MET WITH THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT AND AGREED TO ALLOW UGANDAN TROOPS INTO SOUTHERN SUDAN TO CARRY OUT ATTACKS AGAINST THE LRA AND CAPTURE THE LRA’S LEADER, JOSEPH KONY.
THREE YEARS LATER, IN 2005, THE SUDANESE GOVERNMENT AND THE SPLA ENDED THEIR 21 YEARS OF CONFLICT, AND TOGETHER THEY ORDERED THE LRA OUT OF SOUTH SUDAN. WITH UGANDAN TROOPS IN PURSUIT OF THE LRA IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, THOUSANDS OF LRA COMMANDERS AND SOLDIERS BEGAN TO FIGHT THEIR WAY BACK INTO NORTHERN UGANDA, BRINGING THEIR CAPTIVE WIVES AND CHILDREN WITH THEM.
BEATRICE OCWEE: So when we left Sudan, we had mothers whose children were crying. Sometimes government troops and helicopter gunship would be moving and you the mother, they are seeing you. So I thinking of escaping. I prayed to god that, “god help me.”
PREGNANT WITH HER SECOND CHILD FROM HER FORCED MARRIAGE TO AN LRA COMMANDER, AND DESPERATE TO FEED HER FIRST CHILD BORN IN LRA CAPTIVITY, BEATRICE WENT IN SEARCH OF FOOD.
BEATRICE OCWEE: So when we reached Gulu we moved towards Purongo. When we reached there, we were told to go and look for food in the villages. I told them I was going to look for food because I had nothing for my child. They allowed me to go.
AS SOON AS SHE HAD ENOUGH DISTANCE FROM THE LRA, BEATRICE SAYS SHE SOUGHT REFUGE FROM A HOME IN THE VILLAGE.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When it reached mid-night, I escaped from them and I prayed to god not to make my child cry. They moved forward and I moved backwards. I went to a home of a certain woman and knocked on her door and when she came out, I told her not to fear me and that I have a child and had escaped with everything plus my gun.
FOR YEARS, BEATRICE SAYS SHE WANTED TO ESCAPE, BUT UNTIL THAT NIGHT, SHE WAS TOO AFRAID TO TRY.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When I was still in captivity, my fear was that I was going to be killed and that’s why I took long to escape. Fear of being killed was my problem.
BEATRICE SAYS SHE WASN’T ONLY AFRAID OF WHAT THE LRA WOULD DO TO HER IF THEY CAUGHT HER TRYING TO ESCAPE. SHE WAS ALSO TERRIFIED WHAT THE UGANDAN TROOPS WOULD DO TO HER IF SHE SURRENDERED TO THEM OR WAS CAPTURED.
BEATRICE OCWEE: I saw people who were killed while trying to escape and I had that in my mind. When government forces get you they would kill you and sometimes they would rape you, and give you disease. When we came back home, we found it happened to people who escaped before us. Like it happened to one of the ladies. We hail from the same place. She escaped in 1998. It was government forces who received her. She was raped and infected with disease. But she was not killed. She said every soldier she got there, had raped her.
WHILE HE WAS IN LRA CAPTIVITY, SAMUEL SAYS JOSEPH KONY AND THE LRA COMMANDERS INDOCTRINATED ALL THE CHILDREN, TELLING THEM NOW THAT THEY WERE WITH THE LRA, IF UGANDAN GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS CAUGHT THEM, THEY WOULD KILL THEM, WHETHER THEY WERE TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM THE LRA, OR NOT.
SAMUEL AKENA: The fear we had, for example when Kony was training us, he used to tell us that anybody captured while escaping, the government troops would kill them. That what he used to tell all the soldiers because we are the one fighting them. And when we try to escape they will kill us. Like some of us who have stayed there for two or three years and since you are young, you will fear that they will kill us, and that is what we have been thinking.
THEN, IN 2006, JOSEPH KONY, THE LEADER OF THE LRA, ASKED THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT TO MEET WITH THE LRA IN JUBA, IN SOUTHERN SUDAN, FOR PEACE TALKS. THE JUBA PEACE TALKS, FROM 2006 TO 2008, WERE A SERIES OF TALKS, TRUCES, AND MORE TALKS TO TRY TO REACH AN AGREEMENT TO END 20 YEARS OF CONFLICT BETWEEN LRA REBELS, THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT AND THE UGANDAN PEOPLE. EVELYN AMONY SPENT 11 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY AS ONE OF LRA LEADER JOSEPH KONY’S CAPTIVE WIVES. SHE AUTHORED THE BOOK, “I AM EVELYN AMONY: RECLAIMING MY LIFE FROM LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY” ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE IN THE LRA. DURING THE PEACE TALKS, EVELYN ACTED AS LIAISON BETWEEN THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT AND LRA REBELS.
EVELYN AMONY: People were afraid that the rebels were deceiving them.
THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT ASKED EVELYN TO PARTICIPATE ON GOVERNMENT’S TEAM. THEY CLAIMED SHE HAD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE REBEL LEADER’S BEHAVIOR. JOSEPH KONY AND THE LRA ALSO RELIED ON EVELYN TO EXPLAIN THE GOVERNMENT’S INTENT AT THE TALKS.
EVELYN AMONY: When we arrived they called me to inquire things like who are the people who came. Whether they were serious about the talks or if there was anything harmful that would harm them which the government delegations came with. I kept assuring them that the government had no bad intention and that they were serious about the peace talks. I told them the government seriously needed peace.
TWO YEARS BEFORE THE JUBA PEACE TALKS BEGAN, THE LRA WAS IN RETREAT FROM SOUTH SUDAN BACK INTO NORTHERN UGANDA. EVELYN SAYS SHE WAS ABLE TO ESCAPE HER LONG CAPTIVITY WITH THE LRA WHEN THEY CAME UNDER ATTACK BY UGANDAN TROOPS. EVELYN SAYS DURING THE BATTLE, SHE AND ONE OF HER CO-WIVES, MARGARET, WERE WITH AN LRA COMMANDER WHEN THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS BEGAN FIRING ON THEM.
EVELYN SAYS SHE HAD RECENTLY GIVEN BIRTH AND SHE WAS WITH HER OLDER CHILD AS WELL. AS SHE AND HER CHILDREN AND THE OTHERS CAME UNDER FIRE, EVELYN LIFTED HER NEWBORN BABY OVER HER HEAD TO SURRENDER. BUT THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS CONTINUED FIRING ON THEM, WITH BULLETS PASSING ON EITHER SIDE. ONE BULLET, SHE SAYS, PASSED THROUGHOUT HER SKIRT. EVELYN SAYS AFTER MARGARET, HER CO-WIFE FELL TO THE GROUND, GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS APPROACHED MARGARET AND SHOT HER. SHE WAS INJURED, EVELYN SAYS, BUT SHE SURVIVED. THE UGANDAN SOLDIER THEN WALKED TOWARD EVELYN, HIS GUN RAISED. AS HE GOT CLOSER, EVELYN SAYS HE LOWERED HIS GUN, ARRESTED HER AND THE OTHERS, AND LED THEM TO THE GOVERNMENT’S BASE IN NORTHERN UGANDA.
THE GOVERNMENT TROOPS HANDED EVELYN OFF TO A REHABILITATION CENTER TO BE REINTEGRATED WITH HER FAMILY. BUT MONTHS LATER THE UGANDAN ARMY ARRESTED HER AND PUT HER IN PRISON. AFTER SPENDING TIME IN PRISON, A GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE CAME AND TOLD HER ONE OF JOSEPH KONY’S DEMANDS TO ATTEND THE PEACE TALKS, WAS TO SEE EVELYN AND THREE OF HER CO-WIVES. EVELYN WAS GIVEN A FEW HOURS TO PREPARE FOR THE JOURNEY. A GOVERNMENT CONVOY DROVE EVELYN AND THE OTHER FORMER WIVES TO THE LRA’S BASE IN CONGO TO MEET KONY. EVELYN WAS NERVOUS. IT WOULD BE THE FIRST TIME SHE WOULD COME FACE-TO-FACE WITH JOSEPH KONY SINCE SHE HAD BEEN CAPTURED BY THE GOVERNMENT MORE THAN A YEAR BEFORE.
EVELYN AMONY: It was not easy for me in the beginning because I myself had escaped from Kony. It was not easy at first. Kony himself told me, ‘Now they have returned you to me and you will not go back,’ and I was thinking about what exactly to say to him.
A NUMBER OF UGANDA’S RELIGIOUS LEADERS, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, TRADITIONAL LEADERS, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WERE REPRESENTED AT THE JUBA PEACE TALKS. ALIM SANTA IS 59. SHE LIVES IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN NORTHERN UGANDA. ALIM SAYS THE LRA ABDUCTED THREE OF HER SEVEN CHILDREN. ALL THREE DIED IN LRA CAPTIVITY.
ALIM SANTA: Imagine three of my children have been abducted, two boys and a girl none of them came back, we had even resolved to carry out a burial ritual because they are no longer there. But some people say they are dead. I got reports that two have died but one, the last one who was abducted last who has now spent eighteen years in the bush is the one that I haven’t heard about his death but the two I have heard they are dead.
WHEN PEOPLE WERE ASKED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PEACE TALKS, ALIM SAYS NO ONE ASKED HER TO SHARE HER VOICE. HER STORY.
ALIM SANTA: No it wasn’t, because no one came to us we were just left there. Abandoned we as parents. No one came to listen our views.
OKELLO PHOEBE: Some parents also went there so I think our voices were represented.
OKELLO PHOEBE IS CO-FOUNDER OF CONCERNED PARENT’S ASSOCIATION. THE ORGANIZATION WAS CREATED BY PARENTS WHOSE DAUGHTERS WERE ABDUCTED FROM ST. MARY’S COLLEGE ABOKE, A CATHOLIC BOARDING SCHOOL. LRA REBELS ATTACKED THE SCHOOL AND CAPTURED 139 GIRLS. THE HEADMISTRESS OF THE SCHOOL, A NUN, FOLLOWED THE REBELS TO THE BUSH AND PLEADED FOR THE GIRLS’ RELEASE. THE LRA RELEASED 109 AND TOOK 30 INTO CAPTIVITY. PHOEBE SAYS THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE ASSOCIATION, ANGELINA ATYAM, TRAVELED NORTH, TO SPEAK FOR THE PARENTS.
OKELLO PHOEBE: So our chairperson Angelina went but she did not reach where the rebels were.
THE PARENTS SECURED THE RELEASE OF SOME OF THE CHILDREN ABDUCTED BY THE LRA, BUT, OKELLO SAYS, NOT ALL.
OKELLO PHOEBE: We were seeking the unconditional release of all the children in captivity. It is difficult but in some ways I feel because our information were reaching them, we were talking of the release of all the children.
AFTER TWO YEARS OF PEACE TALKS, THE LRA REBELS AND THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATED A DRAFT OF AGREEMENTS WHICH INCLUDED THE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES BETWEEN THE WARRING PARTIES — AN END TO CONFLICT. BUT THE AGREEMENTS FOR COMPREHENSIVE PEACE WERE NEVER SIGNED.
YUSUF ADEK: When it reached to signing of the comprehensive peace agreements, we got stuck.
YUSUF ADEK IS A TRADITIONAL CHIEF OF ONE OF THE SEVERAL CHIEFDOMS OF THE ACHOLI PEOPLE IN NORTHERN UGANDA. HE WAS ONE OF A NUMBER OF UGANDAN COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVES WHO TOOK PART IN THE PEACE TALKS. YUSUF SAYS THE TALKS AND THE DRAFT PEACE AGREEMENT COLLAPSED WHEN IT BECAME CLEAR TO JOSEPH KONY AND THE LRA THAT NO ONE HAD THE AUTHORITY TO NEGOTIATE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IN THE HAGUE.
TO EXPLAIN THE ROLE OF THE ICC, WE HAVE TO GO BACK. IN 2002, UGANDA RATIFIED AND BECAME A MEMBER OF THE ROME STATUTE, THE FOUNDING TREATY THAT CREATED THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT. UNDER THE STATUTE, THE ICC CAN INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE FOUR INTERNATIONAL CRIMES — GENOCIDE, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WAR CRIMES AND CRIMES OF AGGRESSION — WHEN MEMBER STATES ARE UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO DO SO THEMSELVES.
IN DECEMBER 2003, UGANDA’S PRESIDENT MUSEVENI REFERRED THE CONFLICT IN UGANDA WITH THE LRA TO THE ICC. THE ICC TOOK THE REFERRAL, AND IN 2005, THE YEAR BEFORE KONY ASKED FOR THE JUBA PEACE TALKS, THE ICC ISSUED ARREST WARRANTS FOR JOSEPH KONY AND FOUR OF HIS TOP COMMANDERS, INCLUDING COMMANDER ODHIAMBO WHO HAD TAKEN BEATRICE AS ONE OF HIS CAPTIVE WIVES. THESE FIVE WARRANTS WOULD BE THE FIRST ISSUED BY THE ICC SINCE THE COURT WAS SIGNED INTO LAW IN 1998. AS ONE OF HIS TERMS FOR SIGNING THE JUBA PEACE AGREEMENT, KONY DEMANDED UGANDAN PRESIDENT MUSEVENI WITHDRAW HIS REFERRAL TO THE ICC AND FOR THE ICC TO WITHDRAW THE ARREST WARRANTS FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND WAR CRIMES.
YUSUF ADEK: Kony said Museveni should first withdraw the LRA case from ICC then he will sign the final signatory of the peace talk. On the other side the government also said Kony should first sign then they take the matter to united nation-security.
BUT MUSEVENI’S HANDS WERE TIED. AS A MEMBER OF THE ROME STATUTE, UGANDA WAS OBLIGATED TO ARREST THE FOUR LRA COMMANDERS SOUGHT BY THE ICC. AND, ACCORDING TO ROME STATUTE, ONCE A MEMBER HAS REFERRED A CONFLICT TO THE ICC, ONLY THE PROSECUTOR FOR THE ICC HAS THE AUTHORITY TO WITHDRAW THE CHARGES. THE ICC ARREST WARRANTS AND CHARGES WERE NOT WITHDRAWN.
A COALITION OF ORGANIZATIONS IN NORTHERN UGANDA, SPEARHEADED BY INFLUENTIAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS CRITICIZED THE ICC FOR INTERFERING IN THEIR EFFORTS TO END 20 YEARS OF WAR, PEACEFULLY. A DELEGATION OF UGANDAN LEGISLATORS, RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL LEADERS TRAVELED TO THE HAGUE TO TRY TO CONVINCE THE ICC TO WITHDRAW THE WARRANTS AGAINST THE LRA LEADERS, BUT THE ICC PROSECUTOR REFUSED.
YUSUF ADEK: So ICC issue became the main obstacle in the peace talk.
ERIN BAINES: One of the reasons for the failure of the peace talks was Joseph Kony perceived there to have been a great betrayal in the LRA.
ERIN BAINES IS PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VANCOUVER AND ATTENDED THE PEACE TALKS. SHE SAYS THE ICC WASN’T THE ONLY REASON THE TALKS FAILED. THE TALKS ALSO FAILED, BAINES SAYS BECAUSE LRA LEADER JOSEPH KONY FELT HE HAD BEEN BETRAYED BY HIS SECOND IN COMMAND.
ERIN BAINES: His second in command had apparently brokered some other kind of side deal he was not aware of and so he had killed Vincent Otti, his second in command, and that murder led to the withdrawal of the LRA all together.
WHETHER IT WAS THE ICC ARREST WARRANTS OR THE PERCEIVED BETRAYAL AND MURDER OF HIS SECOND IN COMMAND, AFTER THE COLLAPSE OF THE JUBA PEACE TALKS IN 2008, JOSEPH KONY MOVED HIS WAR FROM NORTHERN UGANDA TO THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, ABDUCTING AND KILLING PEOPLE IN THE NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES.
IN NORTHERN UGANDA, REHABILITATION CENTERS WERE OPENING TO SUPPORT PEOPLE WHO ESCAPED FROM THE LRA, OR WHO HAD BEEN CAPTURED IN BATTLES WITH THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT. THE CENTERS WERE SET UP TO HELP PEOPLE RECOVER FROM THE TRAUMA OF THEIR ABDUCTION AND CAPTIVITY.
BEATRICE OCWEE: The first day I arrived at the center after I was transferred from the barracks, I started getting happiness because I met some of the women we were with already at the center.
AFTER BEATRICE OCWEE ESCAPED FROM THE LRA, UGANDAN TROOPS TOOK HER TO A WORLD VISION TRAUMA CENTER.
BEATRICE OCWEE: They warmly welcomed me and helped me carry my baby. People who work at the center were very excited they saw me. Everybody came around me. They were smiling and encouraged me to forget the past because I was going to see people at home. I was very excited and they immediately called my mother and the following day my parents came to see me.
BEATRICE FELT SAFE, BUT SAYS SHE ALSO FELT USELESS TO HER COMMUNITY. A MONTH AFTER SHE REACHED THE CENTER, SHE GAVE BIRTH TO A SECOND CHILD CONCEIVED IN CAPTIVITY.
BEATRICE OCWEE: When I was returning I did not consider myself important anymore and I could not do anything in Uganda. I came back with a child. I gave birth to children from captivity.
AT THE CENTER, BEATRICE SAYS THEY RECEIVED MEDICAL ATTENTION AND COUNSELLING.
BEATRICE OCWEE: I was fearing that people would be stigmatizing me. So when I reached World Vision Center, counsellors helped me to rehabilitate me. They told me I and my children were still useful. That I was still able to do good things and I should have hope in life. So my rehabilitation started from world vision. And when I returned home, my mother supported me and encouraged me to have hope because they would help me to raise my children.
BEATRICE SAYS THE CENTER TREATED WOMEN WHO WERE ABDUCTED AND WHO BORE CHILDREN CONCEIVED IN CAPTIVITY WITH CARE.
BEATRICE OCWEE: We were treated differently, there was plenty of food for the child, before the normal meal time and as a mother they treat you well compared to someone who does not have a child. They always tell us that mothers are different and they should not take it as if we don’t love others. Even from home mothers were to be kept well. We stayed together without anybody.
THE FOUR CENTERS IN NORTHERN UGANDA PROVIDED REHABILITATION AND SKILLS TRAINING. TWO MONTHS AFTER SHE ARRIVED AT THE CENTER, BEATRICE SAYS, SHE WAS TOLD IT WAS TIME TO GO HOME.
BEATRICE OCWEE: After I have stayed at the center for two months, they told us that they were going to discharge us, so that we leave that place for other people.
WHEN SHE LEFT THE CENTER, BEATRICE SAYS THEY GAVE HER PROVISIONS, AND THEN HANDED HER OVER TO HER PARENTS.
BEATRICE OCWEE: They called our parents and told them that world vision was going to hand over their children to them. Our parents came and collected us. They put us in the vehicles to take us home. They gave us one bag of 50kgs of bean and maize flour each, one tin of cooking oil, mattresses for the mother and their children respectively.
BEATRICE SAYS SHE DID NOT RECEIVE ANY FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM THE CENTER AND THAT MADE HER RETURN HOME WITH HER CHILDREN, DIFFICULT.
BEATRICE OCWEE: I did not have any money to kick start life at home. They should have supported me because I had children and they would have helped by sponsoring my children at school and give me a business after training me on how to run a business to help raise money to support my children in terms of catering for my children, health, clothing and paying rent.
BEATRICE SAYS, THE WORLD VISION TRAUMA CENTER TOLD HER WHEN THEY GOT MORE FUNDING, THEY WOULD LET HER KNOW. BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENED.
BEATRICE OCWEE: They told me that there was no money to do such things and we should first come back home, when they get funding they were going to call us back. So I went back home and up to now they have not called us back. What I received from there was not enough. But they looked at it as if it was enough. They should have supported me more when I had returned home and started living as a mother at home.
LIKE BEATRICE OCWEE, SAMUEL AKENA SPENT TIME AT THE WORLD VISION TRAUMA CENTER IN GULU.
SAMUEL AKENA: The first day we arrived at World Vision, we were warmly welcome because there was nothing wrong like stigmatization, they were asking me how I was abducted and how I stayed in the captivity.
SAMUEL SAYS THE CENTER MONITORED HIS BEHAVIOR AND THEY REALIZED HE WAS NOT VIOLENT. UNLIKE SOME FORMERLY ABDUCTED CHILDREN, HE PAID ATTENTION TO INSTRUCTIONS.
SAMUEL AKENA: On the first day we reached the center we were given blanket and mattress, and they removed my clothes and gumboots I returned with, and gave me slippers.
DURING HIS FIRST WEEK AT THE CENTER, SAMUEL SAYS HE WAS CONSTANTLY CHECKED FOR HEALTH COMPLICATIONS.
SAMUEL AKENA: What they did for us at first, was to ask if I had any problem for example if you have bullets in your bodies, or any injuries and other sickness were the things they were asking for. And they would take you for treatment in the hospital. After one week, they were checking on us if we have any sickness, they used to counsel us over what we experienced in the bush and that what I saw and also they provided meals for us on daily basis from World Vision.
SAMUEL SAYS HE ASKED THE CENTER TO HELP HIM GO BACK TO SCHOOL.
SAMUEL AKENA: I told them to help me to continue with my education because I had requested them to take me back to school and they told me, they were going to take me when I return home. I did not go back.
AFTER ONE WEEK AT THE CENTER, SAMUEL SAYS THE ADMINISTRATORS SENT HIM HOME.
SAMUEL AKENA: They told me that they would follow me.
THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT WORKED WITH DONORS TO RECONSTRUCT THE DISTRICTS IN NORTHERN UGANDA MOST AFFECTED BY THE CONFLICT. THE PEACE RECOVERY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM BUILT SCHOOLS, ROADS, AND HOSPITALS AND CREATED PROGRAMS TO HELP PEOPLE IMPACTED BY THE WAR. ANOTHER INITIATIVE, FUNDED BY THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT, CONSTRUCTED A SCHOOL TO PROVIDE FORMERLY ABDUCTED CHILDREN WITH FORMAL EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL SKILLS.
SAMUEL AKENA: During the time they were opening Laroo boarding school. I had thought World Vision was the one that gave the information because they were saying children who returned from captivity were needed to go to study at the school.
LOCAL LEADERS WERE TASKED WITH REGISTERING FORMERLY ABDUCTED PEOPLE IN SCHOOL. SAMUEL SAYS HE WAS NEVER CONTACTED.
SAMUEL AKENA: They sent the information to the local councilor of a particular area. But instead the local leaders instead of working with people who returned from captivity, they were giving it to their relatives. So I failed to follow up everything.
BACK IN 2000, BEFORE SUDAN ORDERED THE LRA OUT OF SOUTH SUDAN, BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT ISSUED ARREST WARRANTS FOR JOSEPH KONY AND FOUR OF HIS COMMANDERS, BEFORE THE JUBA PEACE TALKS COLLAPSED, UGANDA’S PARLIAMENT PASSED A BILL OFFERING AMNESTY TO LRA REBELS IN AN ATTEMPT TO END THE CONFLICT. THE LEGISLATION WAS INITIALLY IN FORCE FOR SIX MONTHS, WITH A PROVISION FOR AN EXTENSION. TO CLAIM AMNESTY, LRA REBEL FIGHTERS HAD TO SURRENDER TO GOVERNMENT FORCES, ADMIT THEY HAD BEEN AT WAR WITH THE GOVERNMENT, AND THEY HAD TO HAND OVER THEIR WEAPONS. IN RETURN, THEY WOULD RECEIVE AN AMNESTY CERTIFICATE AND THEY WOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED OR HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE LRA. SOME WHO WERE ABDUCTED BY THE LRA AS CHILDREN, WHO WERE FORCED TO FIGHT AND SURVIVE IN LRA CAPTIVITY, DENOUNCED THE LRA AND WERE GIVEN AMNESTY CERTIFICATES.
LILLIAN AMONO: They brought some officials from Amnesty. They came and took our photos and gave us the amnesty card. They told us that they took our photo to show that they have forgiven us because of the war that we fought from the bush.
AMONO LILLIAN IS NOW 35 YEARS. IN 1992, LRA REBELS RAIDED HER HOME AND ABDUCTED HER AT THE AGE OF 9. AMONO SPENT 10 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY WITH THE LRA. TODAY AMONO SAYS SHE HAS NOTHING TO BE FORGIVEN FOR.
AMONO LILLIAN: One day we sat down and asked ourselves, how do they say they have forgiven us yet we are the ones to forgive the government for not protecting us from the rebels.
AMONO RECEIVED A CERTIFICATE OF AMNESTY FROM THE GOVERNMENT. BUT SHE WONDERS IF IT IS THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT THAT NEEDS FORGIVENESS FROM THOSE WHO WERE ABDUCTED.
AMONO LILLIAN: We were debating because we felt the government should be the one to come to us and apologize to us. So how can they say they have forgiven us? But they are saying they have forgiven us; to me that is not right; it is the government to come and apologize to us.
FOR LIFE OF THE LAW I’M GLADYS OROMA IN GULU UGANDA.
Escape, part two of our series Uganda was reported by Gladys Oroma. To hear more about Gladys and her work, and to access links to our background research on Uganda, the audio archive and the music you heard, visit our website lifeofthelaw.org. Our three-part series is produced in partnership with Annie Bunting from York University in Toronto, Teddy Atim, researcher in Kampala, Uganda, and Life of the Law senior producer, Tony Gannon. Additional support by Daphne Keevil Harrold. Our post production editors are Kirsten Jusewicz Haidle and Rachael Cain.
Each time we publish a new episode we send everyone who’s subscribed to our newsletter a behind scenes look at Life of the Law, that includes notes from our reporters and news about upcoming investigative reports. We’re a non-profit project of the Tides Center and we’re part of the Panoply network of podcasts from Slate. You can also find Life of the Law on PRX, public radio exchange. Our series Uganda is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Law and Society Association and by you, our listeners. Join us in two weeks when we present part three, JUSTICE.
https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5290.htm (I am Evelyn Amony)
http://fic.tufts.edu/location/uganda/ (Feinstein, TUFTS work on Uganda)
http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/DolanSocial (Chris Dolan, Social Torture)
https://www.ubcpress.ca/contemporary-slavery (Bunting and Quirk, Contemporary Slavery with Bunting chapter on forced marriage as crime against humanity)