Uganda: LRA commander Dominic Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in prison

Last month the International Criminal Court convicted one of the top ten leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army for the war crimes and crimes against humanity. Former brigade commander Dominic Ongwen was found guilty of 61 charges including murder, rapes and sexual enslavement during a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA.

Dominic Ongwen has become the first person to be convicted of the crime of commanding forced pregnancy of women and underaged girls as a method of war. In May 2021, the ICC found Ongwen guilty of 61 war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual and gender-based violence. He was known to have ordered the abduction and rape of so-called “wives” of LRA soldiers for many years during the rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.

Ongwen was also found guilty of personally ordering his soldiers to carry out mass killings of more than 130 civilians in refugee camps between 2002 and 2005. Ongwen personally has fathered more than 20 children with different women that he enslaved as wives.

Founded 30 years ago by Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army was a heterodox Christian rebel group who launched a rebellion against the Ugandan President. Recognised by US forces as an active terrorist group, the LRA’s campaign aimed to create a state run by Kony’s interpretation of the 10 Commandments and Acholi nationalism. According to the United Nations, 100,000 people died, and 60,000 children were abducted for child soldiery. The violent campaign eventually spread to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Whilst the organisation has essentially been wiped out, Ongwen’s conviction marks a big step in the right direction for holding those who commit gender-based violence during conflict to account for their actions. In the trial that lasted between 6 December 2016 to 12 March 2020, 4,095 victims of Ongwen’s crimes were granted the right to participate and be represented in court.


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