In the 1990s, government forces battled rebels from the West Nile Bank Front and the LRA across northern Uganda..
Six children were killed and five others injured in northwest Uganda after an old explosive they found in the bushes detonated as they played with it, police said Thursday.
Three children died instantly while three others succumbed to injuries en route to hospital in Adjumani, a district of West Nile region that witnessed years of conflict and insurgencies.
“The children were playing in the bushes on Tuesday afternoon when they came across an object, and it exploded as they were playing with it,” Josephine Angucia, a regional police spokeswoman, told AFP on Thursday.
“Preliminary investigations suggest the explosion was from a hand grenade abandoned during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency that affected West Nile region, and in particular, Adjumani which was greatly affected.”
Five children were seriously wounded and being treated at the district hospital, Angucia said.
It was the second fatal accident in Adjumani in less than two weeks involving leftover munitions, with a separate recent explosion killing two people, the police spokeswoman said.
In the 1990s, government forces battled rebels from the West Nile Bank Front and the LRA across northern Uganda, with civilians suffering a horrific toll.
The West Nile Bank Front was crushed by the end of the decade but the LRA survived, continuing its bloody rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni until being forced out of Uganda in 2006.
The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread beyond Uganda to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Seven of these women were forced to be Ongwen’s “so-called wives” and two gave birth to children, leading to the historic conviction for forced pregnancy.
The International Criminal Court on Thursday found a child soldier-turned-Lord’s Resistance Army commander guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during a reign of terror in Uganda.
Dominic Ongwen, 45, was found guilty of 61 charges including multiple murders, rape and sexual enslavement by the rebel group, plus the first-ever conviction by the Netherlands-based court for the crime of forced pregnancy.
ICC judges dismissed defence claims that the Ugandan was himself a victim of the notorious LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony, as he had been abducted by the group as a nine-year-old boy and turned into a fighter.
Ongwen had personally ordered attacks on refugee camps in northern Uganda in the early 2000s by the LRA, which waged a bloody campaign to set up a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments, the judges said.
“His guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt,” presiding judge Bertram Schmitt said as he read out the verdict in the tribunal in The Hague.
“The chamber is aware that he suffered much. However, this case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a responsible adult and a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
Ongwen, nicknamed “White Ant”, will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
Victims and rights groups hailed the verdict as “historic” as it the first conviction to date at the ICC of any leader of the LRA.
‘Shot, burned and beaten’ The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni.
The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Judges said Ongwen — whose nom de guerre means “born at the time of the white ant” — rose to become a senior commander ordered his soldiers to carry out massacres of civilians at the Lukodi, Pajule, Odek, and Abok refugee camps between 2002 and 2005.
Children and mothers with babies tied to their backs were among those killed, said judge Schmitt, who read out the names of the victims.
“Civilians were shot, burned and beaten to death. Children were thrown into burning houses, some were put in a polythene bag and beaten to death,” Schmitt said.
Ongwen, as commander of Kony’s infamous Sinia brigade, was responsible for the abduction of girls to serve as domestic workers and sex slaves, and boys to serve as soldiers, judges said.
Seven of these women were forced to be Ongwen’s “so-called wives” and two gave birth to children, leading to the historic conviction for forced pregnancy.
Soldiers under Ongwen’s command forced some mothers abducted by the group to abandon their crying babies in the bush so they could carry supplies. One two-month-old was dumped in a rubbish pit.
‘He deserves death’ At the opening of the trial, prosecutors played gruesome videos of the scene after an LRA attack on Lukodi refugee camp, showing disembowelled children and the charred bodies of babies in shallow graves.
Kony promoted Ongwen to colonel at about the time of the attack, the judge said.
Ongwen surrendered to US special forces who were hunting Kony in the Central African Republic in early 2015 and was transferred to the ICC to face trial.
Survivors, victims and former rebel fighters from Lukodi sat under mango trees to listen to the verdict on a small radio provided by a local leader, and burst into cheers when it was announced.
“Good,” shouted Angelina Okiror, 38, a resident of Lukodi, when the verdict was read out.
“At last justice has been delivered,” added Ann Maria Angwech, 43. “Because Ongwen killed, he deserves death, because with his hand he took away innocent lives and left we the survivors destitute.”
Residents told AFP the horrors of the attack still lingered fresh in their memories.
“A total of 15 of my family members were killed during the attack and very many people were injured,” said farmer Muhammed Olanya, 38.
Human Rights Watch said the verdict was “historic”.
“One LRA leader has at last been held to account at the ICC for the terrible abuses victims suffered,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the International Justice Program at HRW.
“Would-be rights violators should take note that the law can catch up with them, even years later.”
Kony remains at large despite a massive international manhunt on an ICC warrant.
Access to the headquarters of his political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), has been blocked for about two weeks.
Lawyers for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine filed a challenge in the Supreme Court on Monday against President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in last month’s election, claiming the poll was rigged.
The 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker came a distant second behind veteran leader Museveni in the January 14 vote that followed some of Uganda’s worst pre-election bloodshed in years.
Medard Sseggona, one of Wine’s lawyers, said “any election Museveni participates in can never be a peaceful election, can never be a free and fair election”.
“We want nullification of the election. We do not want (Museveni) participating in any future election,” Sseggona said outside the Kampala courthouse where he filed the petition.
Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel leader who has ruled since 1986, won a sixth term with about 59 percent of the vote.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, secured about 35 percent and slammed the vote as a sham.
Under the constitution, Wine had 15 days from the declaration of results by the electoral commission to challenge the outcome.
The Supreme Court must now rule on the petition within 45 days.
Losing candidates have sought unsuccessfully in the past to overturn Museveni’s wins in court.
One of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, Museveni has won every election since 1996, almost all marred by allegations of irregularities.
‘Invaded polling stations’ Sseggona said “soldiers invaded polling stations” and stuffed ballot boxes with pre-ticket votes. Electoral registers were tampered with at other locations, he added.
“Museveni cannot be left to cheat and steal scot-free,” Sseggona said.
Museveni, however, declared the election the cleanest in Uganda’s post-independence history.
The run-up to the vote was marred by violence and a sustained crackdown on government critics and Museveni’s rivals.
In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.
The opposition leader was held under effective house arrest from polling day until a court-ordered security forces end his detention last week.
Security toughened Security was beefed up across Kampala on Monday, with soldiers atop armoured personnel carriers and police marching in the streets.
Uganda’s deputy inspector-general of police, Major General Paul Lokech, said the additional security was due to protests threatened by elements aligned to the NUP.
The party denied the allegations, with Secretary-General Lewis David Rubongoya saying it advocates for a “peaceful change of Museveni’s government, and not through violence”.
Civil society activists have criticised the parameters for challenging Ugandan elections, with judges only examining events on voting day and the declaration of results, without also taking into consideration the overall campaign period.
“The electoral jurisprudence narrows an election process to votes, numbers and statistics on declaration day making election petitions very difficult,” independent election analyst Crispin Kaheru told AFP.
By law, Wine must prove to the court that any alleged irregularities affected the outcome of the election “to a substantial manner” — a much higher burden of proof than in civil cases.
Ugandan courts do not “look at elections as a process but only at events on polling day and declaration day, which makes it very difficult to prove the substantial effect of fraud wrongdoing,” Kaheru said.
The headquarters of Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) in Kampala was under police guard Monday in what the opposition leader called a “raid” by security forces.
Internet was partially restored in Uganda on Monday almost five days after a near-total blackout was imposed across the country on the eve of elections the opposition says were rigged.
The gradual easing of internet restrictions came as police announced dozens of arrests for alleged election-related violence, and surrounded the headquarters of the main opposition party whose leader is under effective house arrest.
Long-term leader Yoweri Musveni was declared the winner of a January 14 presidential election, securing 58.6 percent of the vote and a sixth term after 35 years in power.
His main rival, musician turned lawmaker Bobi Wine, came a distant second with 34.8 percent. He has rejected the results, and decried the election as a sham.
A government spokesman said an unprecedented internet shutdown imposed on January 13 for alleged national security reasons had been lifted.
“The internet has been restored. Other platforms are still under review,” Ofwono Opondo, the spokesman, told AFP.
“We shall go full throttle depending on what happens in the initial phase of opening connectivity… We advise internet users, especially those from the opposition, not to use it to promote hate messages, threats” and intimidation.
Social media access remained patchy in the capital Kampala, where millions of internet users have been unable to send emails, search the web, or use Facebook, WhatsApp and other communication platforms for the better part of a week.
NetBlocks, a non-government organisation that tracks internet shutdowns, said network data showed a rise in connectivity in Uganda to 37 percent after all but core infrastructure, regulatory and government networks were switched off.
“This suggests that Uganda’s election shutdown, or at least the procedure under which it was implemented, was planned some time in advance. This has been one of the more orderly nation-scale network blackouts we’ve tracked,” NetBlocks told AFP.
“Museveni after committing the most vile election fraud in history, has resorted to the most despicable forms of intimidation,” Wine tweeted.
Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga said 55 people had been arrested over the election period for “violent acts” including blocking highways and damaging property.
“Though the polls were peaceful and a success, there were criminal elements that wanted to cause violence,” he said, adding the accused would face court.
There was silence when the president’s name was read out.
Ugandans have voted under heavy security and an internet blackout in an election pitting veteran leader Yoweri Museveni against a former popstar Bobi Wine after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years.
Voting in Kampala took place under heavy military and police presence on Thursday, with no reports of violent incidents making their way through the communications shutdown.
Vote-count is under way after polling stations closed as people turned out in droves to make their mark in an historic, hotly contested election in which Museveni’s reign is said to be strongly tested.
Long lines of voters snaked out of polling stations in the capital, a stronghold for an opposition galvanised by Bobi Wine despite a campaign scarred by deadly crackdowns.
There are 17.7 million registered voters and results are expected within 48 hours. Turnout looked robust, based on footage from polling stations broadcast by private TV channels.
After polls closed at 4pm local time, hundreds of Bobi Wine supporters in Kampala returned to their polling stations to heed his call to “protect the vote” by watching the count.
At the station where Bobi Wine voted, security forces chased his supporters away.
He took to Twitter shortly after voting was finished to announce his and his wife’s phone was blocked.
“I know this is to stop me from communicating to our agents and coordinators,” he added, asking his supporters to be vigilant.
Reporting from Kampala and quoting the chairman of the electoral commission, NoRM said the election process had largely been smooth.
“He said there were a few hiccups here and there delaying the delivery of the voting materials in some polling stations, identification kits in some stations failed, but all that was sorted,” she added.
“Voting at a few polling stations did not take place and will do so tomorrow.”
‘Staying to watch’ At three polling stations the Reuters news agency visited during counting, cheers rose up from throngs of young people every time an election agent raised a ballot cast for Bobi Wine.
“I know Museveni always rigs to stay in power. This time we are staying to watch each step of the process,” said Sam Ndaula, 26, a roadside vendor.
On Thursday, police arrested about 30 people at the Hotel Africana in Kampala on allegations they were creating an illegal parallel tallying centre, a police official at the scene, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Museveni is still held in high regard by older Ugandans who remember the relative stability and security that he returned to the country.
“These young people, they want change, but they don’t know what Museveni did for us,” said 58-year-old Faith Florence Nakalembe.
But her children, also standing in line in Kamwokya to vote, desperately want change.
“For 23 years, I have never seen a different president. I want someone else,” said her son, 23-year-old student Saad Mukoone, who was throwing his vote behind Bobi Wine.
Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, says his administration guarantees stability and progress, including much-needed hydropower dams and roads.
The National Park Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, nor did Michaud’s attorney.
The family of a Ugandan activist killed in an accident over the summer at one of America’s top national parks has filed a $270 million wrongful death claim.
Esther Nakajjigo, 25, was visiting Arches National Park in Utah with her French husband Ludovic Michaud in mid-June when an unsecured gate swung into the road, decapitating her as she sat in the passenger seat of their car.
The newlywed couple had travelled to the park to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their first date.
Michaud is seeking $240 million in damages from the National Park Service, while Nakajjigo’s family is seeking $30 million, NoRM reported Saturday.
“For want of an $8.00 basic padlock, our world lost an extraordinary warrior for good; a young woman influencer who was destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, philanthropist Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey,” the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, stated.
In an interview carried by CBS4 television station in Denver this week, Michaud, who lives in Colorado, said he still has flashbacks of the accident and is “trying to figure out how to move forward, how to wake up in the morning.”
“What he saw and experienced that day, I cannot even imagine,” Deborah Chang, an attorney representing Michaud and the Nakajjigo family, told local media. “The end of the gate impaled the car like a lance, and literally beheaded his newlywed bride right in front of him.”
Nakajjigo had a huge following in her native Uganda and was involved with numerous philanthropic projects.
She was especially interested in reducing teenage pregnancy and created a reality television show to empower women.
She had come to the United States to further her education and met Michaud in June 2019 through a dating app.
The couple married in March and planned to throw a big wedding party in Uganda once the Covid-19 pandemic was over.