Kwoyelo’s trial is incomplete for 13 years now, he was arrested in 2008.
By Okot Lil Romeo
Gulu – December 3, 2022: The trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the Lord Resistance Army [LRA] has resumed. The trial resumed on November 29 before the International Crime Division at Gulu High Court and will last three weeks.
The delay of the trial came as the government of Uganda’s inability to fund the proceedings against the former rebel commander.
Since 2010 when the trial started, a number of factors among them an appeal lodged in the Courts of Appeal and Supreme due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and limited funding that delayed the hearing.
The deputy registrar Beatrice Stella Atingu said they have laid down strategies to contact the Court to compensate for the missing trial which was supposed to take place this year, starting from July to September but due to a financial crisis that hit the government and partners funding the court activities.
Atingu noted that the case has dragged on for so long, adding that they are committed to serving it this time.
The trial is being presided over by four judges in Stephen Mubiru, Michael Elubu, Duncan Gaswaga and a new judge Andrew Bashaija. The learned fellows will hear 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Kwoyelo.
However, according to the defence lawyer, Evan Oceng assisted by Dalton Charles Opowonga, many witnesses have so far passed on. “It is affecting the hearing of the trial of Kwoyelo which has delayed justice to him,” he added.
Oceng criticized the government Uganda and partners for delaying Kwoyelo’s trial for 13 years and remanding him in prison, saying the accused should be acquitted and set free to walk away without sentencing.
He urged that for the trial to reach its conclusion, the hearing should be held twice quarterly, appealing to the government, partners to boost up financial flows and fund the trial.
Also, the lead counsel for the victims against Kwoyelo Henry Komahech Kilama, the court should speed up the trial and allow concerns of the victims who passed through the atrocities during the LRA war in northern Uganda.
Komahech confirmed that over 64 victims are allowed to testify before the court, telling how they passed through trauma, how they were abducted. He wants his clients supported financially, psychologically and mentally.
The Assistant State Director of the Public Prosecution [DPP] Charles Richard Kamuli has confirmed that many witnesses including elders have died of natural causes, adding that others will not take part testifying in court.
Kamuli, however, revealed that during the three weeks’ trial of Kwoyelo, over 34 witnesses will testify and be cross examined by the defence lawyers. Additional 33 witnesses will pass through the same, bringing the total witnesses to 67.
The International Crimes Division (ICD) is trying former Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA rebel commander Thomas Kwoyelo alias Latoni for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kwoyelo is facing 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he allegedly committed in Paboo in Amuru district between 1995 and 2005.
Kwoyelo, 52, was captured in 2008, and first appeared before the ICD in 2011, making him the first LRA rebel commander to face trial in the country. He has been in detention at Luzira Maximum Prison in Kampala since 2009.