Otunnu Pins Museveni to Serious War Crimes

By Norman S. Miwambo

26th March 2012:

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Dr. Olara Otunnu in London, 2012

UPC Party President Dr. Olara Otunnu, who is on a working visit to the United Kingdom, has established a contributory link between President Yoweri Museveni’s role and the war crimes for which Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga was convicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court [ICC].

In an exclusive interview with this news paper, Dr Otunnu started by welcoming the conviction of Thomas Lubanga.  “I am happy with the conviction.  Actually, it’s the first conviction of the ICC since it was established in 2002,” Dr Otunnu said in reference to the March 14 judgement.

Commenting on the specific charge of recruiting child soldiers for which Lubanga was convicted, Otunnu, a former UN Under Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict, also highlighted his role in framing the war crimes offence.

“The three charges against him were all to do with the recruitment and abuse of children,” said Otunnu, adding that:  “In fact, the particular provision in the Rome Statute under which Thomas Lubagnga was convicted is something I drafted myself.” Otunnu said.

The UPC leader also wasted no time in establishing a firm link between Lubanga’s crimes and Uganda’s role in aiding and abetting those war crimes.  “Lubanga was a relatively small player in the DR Congo.  What gave Luganga his power and sway in the Congo was actually sponsorship by Ugandan leaders,” Otunnu said.

He added:  “As you know, this is not Olara making things up.  There is a very thick Judgement that was delivered…not by the ICC…but by the International Court of Justice.  Numerous charges of crimes committed by Uganda in the Congo are in that Judgement.  Aggression, crimes of war, crimes against humanity, it is all those things.”

Dr Otunnu, a Harvard trained Lawyer, also said he believes that Ugandan leaders and commanders are legitimate suspects for prosecution under the Rome Statute. “The little fellow [Lubanga] who was manipulated from Uganda been charged, but the real fellows who were in charge of his crimes are walking scot-free.  That is what is wrong with the application of the Rome Statue.” Otunnu charged.

He said he told ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo that the ICC’s process and choice of those to be indicted has been highly politicised and highly selective.  “I still very much hope that what was done inside Uganda, on Ugandan territory and elsewhere in Congo will be punished.  I hope to see a day of reckoning when the ICC will investigate and bring them to book for what they did.” said Otunnu.

“Thomas Lubanga was not a hugely significant player in the overall scheme of things.” Otunnu maintained.  END.  Please login to www.ugandacorrespondent.com every Monday to read our top stories and anytime mid-week for our news updates.

http://www.ugandacorrespondent.com/articles/2012/03/otunnu-pins-museveni-to-serious-war-crimes/

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court handed down its first sentence Tuesday, imprisoning for 14 years a Congolese warlord convicted of using child soldiers.

Thomas Lubanga was convicted in March of recruiting and using children in his Union of Congolese Patriots militia, sending them to kill and be killed during fighting in Congo’s eastern Ituri region in 2002-2003.

Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford said the sentence reflected the need to protect children in wartime.

“The vulnerability of children means they need to be afforded particular protection,” he said at the sentencing hearing.

The 51-year-old Lubanga is the first person convicted by the 10-year-old permanent war crimes tribunal.

Rights activists hailed the case as a milestone in efforts to prosecute the widespread use of child soldiers in conflicts around the world.

Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year sentence, but said they would be willing to cut it to 20 years if Lubanga offered a “genuine apology” to victims of his crimes.

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga awaits his sentence in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerry Lampen, Pool)

(more…)

Child Troopers Teaser 1 from Ebony Butler on Vimeo.

This is the first cut of a teaser for my documentary film Child Troopers, about the war between Joseph Kony‘s LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Ugandan Government.

Much more to come with new footage from Uganda 2012 so stay tuned!

See: www.atlanticstarproductions.com
www.faceook.com/childtroopers

My second trip to Uganda was vastly different from the first, back in 2009.

In 2009, I was researching the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), Joseph Kony and the topical issue of children in armed conflict. I spent most of my time with former child soldiers in Northern Uganda and also made a promise to a group of child soldiers that I had become close to. The promise was to send 2 bicycles, to help them in their lives and in their rehabilitation and re-integration into society.

In 2012, I returned with a container of 400 bicycles, a mission I had been on since my trip there in 2009. I also set up a bike workshop and vocational training centre at Friends of Orphans in Pader, to help victims of the conflict.

As as far as my research on the war in Northern Uganda goes, I had learnt a lot more in the three years since my first visit. During that period I also traveled to the United States, where I interviewed people at the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Black Star News, UNICEF, Resolve Uganda and many other organizations.

My knowledge of the conflict grew day by day, and when I returned to Uganda earlier this year, I had many new contacts to meet and learn from. These included notable and die-hard pro-democracy activists such as Barbara Allimadi, Shawn Mubiru, Anne Mugisha, opposition leaders Kizza Besigye, Nandala Mafabi and the honorable UPC President and former UN Under Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict, Dr. Olara Otunnu. The experts and scholars I met with included Adam Branch from Makerere University, Leander Komakech, Okello Okello John Livingstone and Major General Pecas Kutesa – who all offered interesting and informative insights into the war and the state of democracy in Uganda. This really put a new spin on my take of the conflict, which had gradually been happening since the U.S trip in 2011. There were things that didn’t add up and it has taken a long time to work out the truth, as the media portrayal of the conflict is far from the facts I had uncovered. Uganda, I also discovered, was a democracy in disguise. On two occasions I was almost arrested, for no reason other than having a camera and having friends who are with the opposition. On my last day in Uganda, the day I was grabbed by the Police and threatened to be tear gassed, my friend Doreen was actually arrested and put into maximum security prison (Luzira), for voicing her opinion about the government and Museveni’s corrupt regime. I can tell you first hand, Uganda is not as free and democratic as it appears to be…

I still spend countless hours researching the conflict and the human rights situation in the country, as what has occurred in Northern Uganda has been so well concealed by the powers that be, and the international community at large, making it very difficult for the truth to be made visually transparent. The ‘Kony War‘, as it is often called, is not what it seems. That is not to say that Kony does not exist, nor that he has not committed the atrocities that are now well-known to the world, thanks to the viral video campaign from Invisible Children, Kony 2012. The perpetrator of this conflict is not Kony, as most would believe due to media and government deception and misinformation. Joseph Kony is sadly a product of the war, and should still however be made to face justice for his crimes. But, will that bring justice to the Acholi people of Northern Uganda, particularly if the other perpetrators are not also made to stand trial for their involvement in this human tragedy? How can justice prevail when impunity reigns?

This year I also spent much time in Uganda looking into how the conflict can be resolved and what is the best way forward. Is military intervention (which is what is currently happening) the correct road, or could truth and reconciliation through national dialogue and peace talks be a better and more effective option? There are many differing views on this subject, but on the ground, there seems to be only one. Invisible Children have called out loud and clear for U.S military intervention in the region, but where has that got them in the past, and for what reasons would they really be intervening? The fact of the matter is, why intervene now, when they really needed to intervene 10 years ago, when there was a serious humanitarian crisis going on. That’s when everyone was silent on what was going on. That’s when help was needed and voices needed to be heard. Now there is relative peace and the people in Uganda want to know, “WHY NOW?”.

‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’
Albert Einstein