Dominic Ongwen – From Kidnapped Youngster to LRA Insurgent Commander

Dominic Ongwen is the primary LRA commander to seem earlier than the Worldwide Prison Courtroom

Generally known as the “White Ant,” Dominic Ongwen, a convicted conflict prison, was believed to be between 9 and 14 years previous when he was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Military (LRA) on his option to the varsity in northern Uganda. 27 years to turn out to be a ruthless insurgent commander.

Disclaimer: Some individuals might discover the small print of this story disturbing.

“That is the story of a kid, like many LRA members, pressured to develop up like his oppressors,” says marketing campaign group LRA Disaster Tracker.

Shortly after his kidnapping in 1987 or 1988 he tried to flee with three different individuals and after they failed he was pressured to pores and skin one of many different abductees alive as a warning, a psychiatrist stated throughout his conflict crimes trial on the Worldwide Prison Courtroom (ICC) in The Hague.

“They skinned this individual, took off his stomach and put him on the bushes”, Dickens Akena told court. “And he [Ongwen] stated he wouldn’t eat meat for 2 to a few months. “

Ongwen – whose final identify means ‘born within the days of the white ant’ – continued to rise quickly by means of the insurgent ranks, turning into a brigadier in his late twenties after profitable the belief of the LRA chief Joseph Kony, in keeping with LRA Disaster Tracker.

However he had a tough relationship with the LRA warlord, managing to flee his clutches in 2015 when he surrendered – 10 years after he, Mr Kony and three different senior commanders had been indicted by the ICC.

He has now been convicted of 61 of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity dedicated between July 2002 and December 2005 and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

They relate to assaults on 4 camps, guarded by safety forces, arrange for these pressured to flee their houses by insurgent raids. He was additionally discovered responsible of expenses regarding sexual slavery and conscription and the usage of kids beneath the age of 15 in hostilities.

Claiming to battle for a biblical state, the LRA has killed greater than 100,000 individuals and kidnapped greater than 60,000 kids throughout the three-decade battle that has unfold to a number of of Uganda’s neighbors.

Ongwen, who had pleaded not responsible, stated he also needs to have been thought-about a sufferer, telling the courtroom: “I’m one of many individuals the LRA has dedicated atrocities towards.”

‘He preferred to bounce’

Described as a peaceful and playful youngster, his uncle, Johnson Odong, a witness in courtroom, stated Ongwen’s dad and mom had been each useless inside a month of his kidnapping – his mom was allegedly clubbed by the rebels and his father taken for a insurgent by the safety forces.

Elementary college instructor P’Atwoga Okello stated in a protection witness assertion that the boy loved lessons in cultural dance “and different fields of the humanities.”

His LRA instructor was Vincent Otti, who grew to become deputy to Mr Kony, with whom he lived after his kidnapping, in keeping with tutorial Erin Ok Baines.

An excellent instructor can acquire fierce loyalty after indoctrinating captives with brutal beatings and rituals – adopted by navy coaching and looting raids, she says.

Vincent Otti photographed in 2006Vincent Otti photographed in 2006

LRA commander Vincent Otti was the younger captive’s first mentor

Ongwen was reportedly wanting to please, however first struggled with the calls for of life on the foot – the lengthy distances walked, and an ICC witness stated he needed to be transported throughout massive rivers.

Within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, he moved to what’s now South Sudan, from the place the LRA operated. In 2001, he was a discipline commander and he grew to become identified for replenishing his forces by means of kidnapping raids in Uganda, Ms. Baines stated.

“[He] has earned a popularity for with the ability to come out of the bloodiest of battles with few casualties amongst its fighters, ”stated the Sufficient Undertaking, one other marketing campaign group.

Dominic Ongwen at a look:

  • Kidnapped by the LRA on his option to college

  • Rose to turn out to be a excessive commander

  • Charged with conflict crimes and crimes towards humanity, together with enslavement

  • The ICC issued an arrest warrant in 2005

  • America has supplied a reward of $ 5million (£ 3.3million) for the data resulting in his arrest in 2013

  • Transferred to the ICC in 2015 after his give up. Convicted of conflict crimes in 2021.

Was Joseph Kony defeated?

A former kidnapped known as him a “robust fighter who was at all times on the transfer” – ​​however with a limp from a critical leg damage.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution introduced LRA radio communications intercepted by Ugandan safety companies, displaying how Mr. Kony – who satisfied his military of abductees that his “thoughts” might learn their minds – a maintained tight command and management over its battalions.

Auma Consolata, a former abductee of the Lord's Resistance Army, bears the scars of her encounter with the rebels who cut off her lips, nose and ears before she could flee to her family (September 2, 2006)Auma Consolata, a former abductee of the Lord's Resistance Army, bears the scars of her encounter with the rebels who cut off her lips, nose and ears before she could flee to her family (September 2, 2006)

The LRA is understood to chop the lips, noses and ears of civilians

“Profitable commanders had been praised by Kony and different senior officers. I keep in mind Dominic Ongwen, known as Odomi, usually chosen for his reward ”. stated a radio surveillance agent, whose identification has been stored secret.

However Ongwen additionally had an unstable relationship with Mr Kony, opposing Otti’s execution in 2007 after the 2 fell out amid stalled peace talks.

“LRA deserters report that Ongwen was the one commander to beg Kony to spare Otti’s life, a transfer that weakened his affect inside the LRA,” LRA Disaster Tracker says.

“Nonetheless, Kony spared Ongwen from the next purge of Otti loyalists on account of Ongwen’s worth to the LRA, notably his means to guide troops on daring missions.”

Ugandan soldiers patrol February 23, 2004 in Lira district, where more than 200 people were killed by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in one of the IDP campsUgandan soldiers patrol February 23, 2004 in Lira district, where more than 200 people were killed by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in one of the IDP camps

Many villages have been destroyed within the battle

The peace initiative passed off in a jungle clearing on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and present-day South Sudan – with unimaginable footage of rebels interacting with mediators.

Together with his dreadlocks and infantile seems to be, Ongwen watches with warning the proceedings, which observers say finally failed as a result of refusal to withdraw the 2005 indictments from the ICC.



For some – together with his “bushwoman” Florence Ayot – it was an injustice.

“Dominic used to inform us he was kidnapped when he was very younger. All the things he did was in Kony’s identify, so he is harmless,” she informed the BBC in 2008 .

Amnesty after escaping from the LRA in 2005, she was kidnapped on the age of 9 and for the primary time grew to become “the spouse” of LRA commander Obwong Kijura, who raped her in the home. age 13.

After his demise, she told the ICC she voluntarily grew to become Ongwen’s “spouse” as a result of the LRA chief didn’t enable ladies to dwell alone.

She stated he had handled his son as his personal kids by his three different “wives” on the time and had by no means been violent along with her. That they had two kids collectively.

“I beloved him due to the best way he would dwell with individuals. He wasn’t quarrelsome, and I felt it was okay for me to go see him. There was nothing that I did not. did not like his residence as a result of I hadn’t seen something improper with him earlier than.… We lived fortunately collectively. “

‘I used to be shouting’

This offended the testimony of seven different individuals at trial, including Witness P-227, another of Ongwen’s “wives”. Kidnapped in April 2005, she was reportedly pressured to have intercourse with Ongwen a month later: “I began to cry, I used to be screaming and my voice was very loud.

“He requested me why I used to be crying; he informed me if I stored crying – he confirmed me his gun… I felt my entire physique was torn aside. She says she was raped a number of instances till her escape in 2010.

And fleeing was a harmful enterprise – the LRA would threaten to destroy your village if you happen to did. In response to Ms Ayot’s testimony, she and Ongwen conspired to go in 2003, however their plan was found and her “husband” was positioned “beneath arrest” by Otti for a number of weeks.

Some psychiatrists current on the trial believed Ongwen was affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction and dissociative identification dysfunction on the time of the assaults on the camps, when the prosecution stated he was commanding officer of Sinia brigade battalion – turning into its basic commander in March. 2004.

ICC prosecutors cite testimony saying that on at the least one event he ordered his men to “kill, cook and eat civilians”.

Greater than 4,000 victims participated within the trial – represented by two authorized groups – most of them former residents of the camp – and the trial detailed the lives misplaced, destruction, kidnappings and psychological harm suffered by these communities in northern Uganda.

Rows on household cellphone calls

With reviews of his assassination in 2005 proving to be false, Ongwen remained on the run for a few years as rebels moved west into DR Congo and its different neighbors.

In 2013, the US – which had joined the hunt for LRA commanders – supplied a reward of $ 5million (£ 3.3million) for data resulting in Ongwen’s seize. .

Joseph Kony photographed in 2006Joseph Kony photographed in 2006

Dominic Ongwen reportedly had an unstable relationship with LRA chief Joseph Kony (pictured)

A suspected LRA escapee that Mr. Kony ordered Ongwen to be severely overwhelmed for insubordination on the finish of 2014.

Badly, he ultimately escaped from the LRA camp in Darfur, crossing from Sudan to neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), the place he was detained.

On the time, he requested the Ugandan individuals for forgiveness, however inside 10 days he was transferred to the ICC.

According to, throughout his pre-trial incarceration, he gave the impression to be profiting from his probability to pursue additional schooling, together with piano classes.

However he threatened to kill himself and continued hunger-strike in 2016, throughout cellphone calls to his household – he was initially prevented from talking to his kids.

Dominic Ongwen in court in 2020Dominic Ongwen in court in 2020

Dominic Ongwen usually quietly adopted ICC proceedings

Some say the trial was a proxy prosecution of Mr Kony, whose insurgent motion is way weaker nowadays however continues to be lively outdoors Uganda.

Nonetheless, two variations of Ongwen emerged throughout his trial: one among a brutal killer, the opposite of a traumatized youngster soldier who grew as much as be a person in battle.

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