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Kwoyelo Threatens To Abandon Appearing In Court

Thomas Kwoyelo in the dock at Gulu High Court in Gulu City.

Former Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni has threatened to stop appearing before judges at the International Crimes Division Court-ICD of the high court alleging the delayed conclusion of his case.

Kwoyelo who is facing 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICD told his lawyers on Thursday that he was already fed up with the long duration spent in detention since 2009.

The former LRA warlord opened up shortly after the court adjourned his trial hearing up to Monday next week, just three days after it had resumed at the ICD sitting in Gulu High Court on November 28.

The case resumed before the four panel Judges of the ICD comprised of Justice Michael Elubu (Presiding judge), Stephen Mubiru, Duncan Gasgwaga, and alternate judge justice Dr. Andrew Bashaija.

Kwoyelo noted that he had spent 13 years behind bars and wasn’t sure whether he would be convicted or walk a free man arguing that it was senseless to return to court.

“I’m tired and have been here for the last 13 years, I don’t want anything else now and I won’t return to this court on Monday, people only die once,” an angry Kwoyelo told his defense lawyers Evans Ochieng and Dalton Opwonya.

This was after the court adjourned the session during the cross-examination of Dr. Martin Ogwang, the Institutional Director of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor who testified about medical forms presented by victim-witnesses who received treatment from the facility.

The prosecution led by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Charles Kamuli between Monday and Wednesday presented four LRA victim-witnesses who testified in court about atrocities committed by LRA rebels in Pagak IDP camp in Amuru District.

The victims narrated the grim ordeals of the attacks that occurred on May 16, 2004, in which they sustained injuries and lost their loved ones.

Kwoyelo is accused of sexual violence, murder, hostage-taking and kidnapping, robbery, and pillaging among others allegedly committed between 1993 and 2005 in Pabbo Sub-county, Amuru District.

Kwoyelo’s Defence lawyer Dalton Opwonya however told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that his client’s frustration is genuine since the case has taken a long without completion of an investigation.

“He is annoyed that investigations are still going on, he has been in prison for 13 years and how do they still investigate the case up to now, even in September, October they are investigating, what are they investigating?” Opwonya questioned.

Opwonya says they are waiting to see on Monday whether their client will turn up in Court citing that if he fails to show up, the court may not be able to proceed with the case. “There is no way the case will be heard on Monday if he doesn’t show up,” says Opwonya.

But the victim’s defense lawyer Henry Komakech Kilama says the absence of Kwoyelo in court won’t affect the trial hearing on Monday. He says the court can grant permission for the trial to proceed in the absence of the accused.

Early this week, the state prosecutor Charles Kamuli acknowledged the delayed trial of Kwoyelo but faulted it on the funding gaps.

Kwoyelo was captured by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers (UPDF) from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009. He is the first top LRA commander to be tried for war crimes in the domestic court in Uganda.

-URN

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