United States Upholds UGX 18 Billion Bounty in Hunt for Joseph Kony

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The United States government has maintained a reward of up to USD 5 million (18.2 billion Shillings) for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. 

The reward was first announced by the Obama administration in 2013, under a provision in the War Crimes Rewards Programme authored by then US secretary of state John Kerry. The provision expanded the scope of the program that had previously allowed for rewards to be offered for war crimes suspects wanted only by international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. 

At the time, the reward was for information about Kony, his assistants Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, who had all been indicted by the International Criminal Court-ICC. While Okot Odhiambo is reported to have died, Ongwen was later arrested and on Thursday, he was convicted of 61 out of the 70 charges for which he faced trial in The Hague-based court.  

According to the judgment, Ongwen was found guilty of personally leading raids in which, the Sinia brigade which he commanded, looted property and animals, set fire on homes, burnt people alive, killed babies, and exploited girls as sex slaves.  

“He gave instructions to loot food, abduct people, burn down the camp and the barracks,” the Presiding Judge Schmitt said. “An old woman who could not carry her load was strangled and had her throat cut,” he added. “His men shot, beat and abducted civilians in the head and the face to make sure they were dead.”  

The United States Department of State said in a statement this morning that the conviction is a significant step for justice and accountability for atrocities committed against the civilian population in Northern Uganda. The United States facilitated the voluntary surrender and transfer of Ongwen to the ICC in 2015. 

“While we continue to believe the ICC is in need of significant reform, we are pleased to see Ongwen brought to justice.  There was extensive outreach to victims’ groups in northern Uganda during Ongwen’s trial, including the broadcasting of the trial to affected communities,” Ned Price, the Department of State Spokesperson said. 

Price said after the conviction, a bounty on Kony’s head is upheld, so that he equally faces trial for ordering widespread atrocities committed in northern Uganda for almost two decades. Kony is accused of ordering mass killings recruiting boys to fight and keeping girls as sex slaves.

Human Rights Watch estimates that the L.R.A. kidnapped at least 25,000 children in Uganda alone, while the fighting between the rebels and government troops displaced almost two million people from their homes in the country from 1987 to 2006. 

Anyone with information about Kony or his whereabouts can email wcrp@state.gov or send a WhatsApp text message to +1-202-975-5468.

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