KAMPALA (AFP) – Ugandan army officers have met a top commander of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who is wanted by the International Criminal Court and in US custody, Uganda’s defence minister said Thursday.
LRA commander Dominic Ongwen, who faces trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes and was one of the last senior aides to LRA leader and warlord Joseph Kony, surrendered this week in the Central African Republic.
“Our officers met him in the custody of Americans, and discussions are ongoing if he will be handed over to us soon,” Uganda’s defence minister, Crispus Kiyonga, told AFP.
The minister had earlier said the captured rebel had been handed over to Ugandan forces, but later corrected his statement to say Ongwen still remained with American troops.
The LRA have been blamed for the slaughter of over 100,000 people and kidnapping of more than 60,000 children during a three-decade-long campaign across five central African nations.
Kiyonga did not confirm whether Uganda wanted to try Ongwen in Kampala, or would send him to the ICC.
“We are consulting with relevant authorities, the UN and African Union, on the course of action,” Kiyonga said.
While Uganda is a signatory to the ICC and legally bound to hand Ongwen over for trial at The Hague-based court, President Yoweri Museveni last month called for African nations to quit the ICC, accusing the Hague-based court of being used as a “tool to target” the continent.
“Other than ICC, Uganda has established special division court to try war crimes,” Kiyonga said, when asked about possibility of having Ongwen handed over to ICC.
Kiyonga said the surrender of Ongwen followed “sustained pressure” from a US-backed African Union force including Ugandan troops, tasked with capturing the LRA’s leaders.