Thomas Kwoyelo: Uganda investigates commander of rebel Lord’s Resistance Army

Thomas Kwoyelo - seen here in 2017 - is accused of crimes against humanity

The trial of a former child soldier who became a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army has started in Uganda after a long wait.

Thomas Kwoyelo is accused of doing many bad things like killing people, hurting others, and making kids become soldiers.

He is the first LRA leader to be tried in a Ugandan court, which is a very important moment for the country’s legal system.

In 2011, when Mr. Kwoyelo went to court, he said he didn’t do the things he was accused of.

He has been in jail for 14 years before his trial because the crimes he is accused of are very serious and complicated, according to experts.

More than 20 years ago, Joseph Kony started the LRA in Uganda. He said he was fighting to create a government that follows the rules written in the Bible.

The group was well known for cutting off people’s arms and legs and taking children to be soldiers and for bad things. Hundreds of people had to leave their homes because of the fighting.

It started in northern Uganda, then moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo where Mr Kwoyelo was arrested in 2009, and later to the Central African Republic.

Friday’s trial is happening at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Gulu. This is similar to Uganda’s own version of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr Kwoyelo has been to court before for pre-trial hearings, but the case has been delayed many times.

Several people will tell the court what they saw happen.

Human Rights Watch said that there have been long delays in this case, and generally, not enough people have been held responsible for the bad things that happened during the 25-year war in Uganda, including bad things done by the Ugandan government.

In 2021, the ICC gave Dominic Ongwen a 25-year jail sentence because he was a commander in the LRA. They didn’t give him the harshest punishment because he had been kidnapped as a kid and trained by rebels who had killed his parents.

Mr Kwoyelo says he was kidnapped by LRA fighters when he was a young teenager, while he was on his way to school.

Many people who used to be part of the LRA have been forgiven and allowed to go free under a law in Uganda, after they left and said they didn’t want to be part of the rebel group anymore.

But Mr Kwoyelo was not allowed to choose that, leading to claims that the denial was based on politics.

As his court case continues, people are worried that the money to support it could run out. This would make the process even longer for the people who say they were hurt by him and want justice.


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