The trial of former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen continued on Monday at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) with testimony from a defence witness who narrated her experience having been one of the wives to LRA leader, Joseph Kony.
Evelyn Amony, an LRA abductee who then became one of Joseph Kony’s wives testified via video link without protective measures. Some parts of her testimony were conducted in private sessions.
The witness who was questioned by Defence Counsel, Thomas Obhof told court that she was born in 1982, in Gulu district, northern Uganda.
She grew up in Atiak and lived together with her parents before she was abducted. At the time of her abduction she was 12 years old and in Primary Four (P4).
Amony said she was abducted together with five other people. She lied to her abductors that she was called Betty Atoo in order to protect her family members since she had heard that whenever peopel escaped from the rebels, LRA soldiers came and killed the remaining family members.
The witness recalled that in the first weeks she walked for long distances to unknown locations.
After a while, she realized that even if she manage to escape it will not be easy to find her way back home. After her abduction, all the newly abducted recruits underwent initiation and became official members of the LRA. The group that abducted her took her to Sudan, where she spent most of her abducted life.
The witness told court about life in the LRA – the various rules, and orders that were followed as well as the subsequent punishments if not followed.
Being wife to Kony
Court heard that when Amony was abducted, she was taken to Kony’s household as a ting ting (name given to young girls in the LRA who baby sit, clean and cook).
She recalled that when she was 14 years old, Kony called her and told her that from then on she was his wife.
She explained that she looked at Kony as a father figure and she wasn’t happy with what Kony said and so she ran away to Otii Vincent, who later brought her back to Kony’s house
“He [Kony] pressured me and had sex with me. And he told me that I should blame my parents for making a beautiful woman like me. I was 14 years old”.
The witness narrated that she felt bad about being a young wife. When asked how Kony treated her when she was a ting ting, the witness said that Kony treated her well.
She added that only Kony’s wives were beating her from time to time.
Kony had a huge household of 27 wives with whom he had children and together with other small girls who lived with him, Amony told court.
She said that Kony’s entire household consisted of 60 women. As for children, the witness explained that Kony had many children.
Attempting to escape
The witness explained that she had tried to escape many times. She cited an incident whereby she tried to escape together with another soldier and when they were caught, the soldier was killed while she was beaten fifty strokes.
She and other LRA members were warned that if they tried to escape, and they were caught, they would be punished immediately. She also heard that if one escapes and is caught by the UPDF they would be killed as well.
After her abduction, the witness said that she was trained to pray. While in Sudan, the witness recalled that she saw that “The Arabs” (Sudanese government from Khartoum) were providing food, firearms and ammunition to the LRA. That relationship existed from 1994 until 2001, when operation Iron fist begun. The witness noted that the LRA, while in Sudan moved from one location to the next very often
In 2004, she and other LRA members, while in Uganda, entered into an ambush and she was captured by UPDF soldiers. She was initially taken to hospital and then to GUSCO (Gulu Support the Children Center).
In 2006, the witness claimed that the Ugandan Government, tried to “force her” to go back to the LRA for peace talks.
“As far as I was concerned, I didn’t know why he started on the rebellion but everything fell on me”.
The witness explained that the Ugandan Government wanted her to go to the LRA base to convince them to “come back home” yet the same government didn’t consider that she was afraid to go back to a place where she had escaped from.
She was removed from the peace talk’s process and was brought back to Uganda.
About the accused, the witness said that she met Dominic Ongwen when he helped her when she almost drowned during her first days in the LRA after she was abducted. She didn’t see or interact with Ongwen much because he was in a different brigade.
From the few interactions, Amony said Ongwen was “someone who loved people and children” and was “jolly”.
The Prosecution and the Legal Representatives of Victims questioned the witness before she concluded her testimony.
The trial will continue on Thursday, September 26 with the testimony of the 50th Defence witness.