In the wake of the Paris terrorist attack, little global attention has been heaped on the tail end of the development surrounding the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), another of Africa’s terrorist groups that has been around for more than two decades. This is in reference to the handing over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the surrendering LRA Maj. Gen., Dominic Ongwen.
Boko Haram and LRA are writing similar incredible scripts of human rights abuses, brazenly done under the noses of African regimes, claiming democratic legitimacy. Whereas Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, is using ten-year old girls as his suicide bombers to cause mayhem in north-east Nigeria, Ongwen and his boss, Gen. Joseph Kony, have been accused of cutting off people’s ears, lips and noses in the internecine rebel conflict that engulfed north and eastern Uganda.
Like LRA, Boko Haram is also going regional, with attacks in neighbouring Cameroun and the military involvement of Chad and Niger. In its heyday, LRA swallowed up the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and has ended up in the Central African Republic (CAR). It is in CAR that Ongwen has “surrendered to” or “been captured” by a contingent of the United States Special Forces that are helping the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF), to track down the elusive Kony, now believed to be in Sudan.
It is curious that the US that does not subscribe to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, is now involved in “handing over” Ogwen to the ICC to be tried on charges of genocide, human rights abuses and murder. It is even more curious that President Yoweri Museveni, who wants to pull Uganda out of the ICC, and is urging other African countries to follow suit, has accepted that Ongwen go to ICC. One would have thought that he would lean on the US to extradite Ongwen to Uganda to face justice, here. Why is this not the case?
Nothing appears to be clear at this point. Firstly, there are controversial claims that Ongwen may have surrendered, not merely for the reason he claims that Kony was becoming suspicious of him and wanted to kill him like he did to his predecessor, Vincent Otti, but that he did it for the three million-dollar bounty that the US had put on his head. That may well be the case, but in this scenario it is claimed that Ongwen had agreed, with the person who “revealed” his whereabouts to the US contingent, that they would share the reward; that it was better than if the CAR anti-Seleca rebels got on to him, first.
Also, Ogwen appears to have been persuaded that if he appeared at the ICC, the circumstances under which he was recruited to the LRA – being captured as a 10 year-old, and forcibly conscripted to mutilate and murder – would work out in his favour for pardon. So, giving himself up was the better option, while “earning” himself some easy “loot” on the side.
Moreover, the UPDF claim the US Forces had passed Ongwen to them may not be entirely accurate. It would appear that the US hung on to Ongwen so that they themselves would be the ones to hand over Ongwen to The Hague, directly from Bangui. The perception here is that had Ongwen come to Kampala, the chances are that he might not have got on to The Netherlands. It is ridiculous now that the Ugandan regime is willing to represent Ongwen at the ICC. This smacks of attempting to smother Ongwen’s evidence; and suspiciously of trying a cover-up of its own culpability.
The argument here is that Ongwen is going to “sing” about what “actually took” place in Northern Uganda on the issue of mutilations. He is going to say, like Kony reputedly averred, that he could not have been involved in cutting off the lips, noses, mouths and ears of his “own people”. So the onus would be on Museveni and the UPDF to explain how that sacrilegious phenomenon came about. Thus, Ongwen’s going to the ICC was not entirely on Uganda’s say-so, but also to answer to some American strategic interests.
So, the terrorists’ developments in Africa are not the easy cut-and-dried story of mere military offensives. It is inexplicable that the Nigerian military has been unable to rout Boko Haram, until one looks at the interests of the Nigerian thieves of public money as they prey on its oil riches. There is the view that as long as the national attention is focused on Kano, Borno and Adamawa states, the thieves will be able to hold sway in the southern Delta region; so they do all they can to fuel the turmoil in the northern states.
It also plays into the hands of the forthcoming election: that it is advantageous for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan Ebeere, not to have the northern votes as there is a state of emergency. That way, Ebeere would likely retain his seat.