AFP/ The Hague
The International Criminal Court yesterday sentenced Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier who became a commander in the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to 25 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ongwen, 45 – whose nom de guerre was “White Ant” – was found guilty in February of 61 charges during a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony.
“In light of the gravity of the crimes that you committed...the chamber sentences you to a total period of imprisonment of 25 years,” declared presiding judge Bertram Schmitt.
The case revived traumatic memories of the rebel group’s brutal rampage across East Africa, but also cast light on the plight and moral responsibility of child soldiers.
Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year term, saying Ongwen’s own past justified a lower sentence than the maximum of 30 years to life allowed by the ICC.
The defence had sought a 10-year term for Ongwen for attacks by his men on refugee camps in northern Uganda.
Victims of his crimes had asked the court to impose the full life sentence.
The six years he has served in custody will be deducted from the sentence and Ongwen can appeal.
Schmitt said the court was faced with a “unique” case, describing Ongwen as both a criminal and a victim.
He said Ongwen, an intellectually gifted child, had a “brilliant future” before him until he was kidnapped while on his way to school aged nine.
In northern Uganda, many people said the sentence was too lenient. “I was surprised the court gave only 25 years. It should have been more years in jail because the harm and suffering the LRA caused to people of this region is a lifetime trauma,” said James Komakech Olwo, a 49-year-old farmer in Amuru.
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