Dominic Ongwen, a former commander in Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is on trial at the ICC. Florence Ayot (35), his former bush wife, still hopes that one day he’ll come back so they can be together and take care of their two children.
“I was only nine years old when I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1989.
“In 1996, after my first husband died, I was given to Dominic Ongwen, who was abducted at the age of 10.
“We never quarrelled and he never abused me. Not one single day. He even took care of my first child who wasn’t his. I don’t know what he did exactly at the frontline, but he has a good character. If he were bad hearted, Kony himself would have killed him.
“There were some instances when Dominic wanted to flee. In 2003 he wanted to come out, but fellow LRA commander Vincent Otti halted him, just before he entered Gulu town. He was taken and imprisoned for one month.
“On the 2nd of October 2004, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force bombed us, and my first child who I did not have with Dominic died. Two weeks later a co-wife I was sharing with Dominc died by an RPG grenade. I was afraid that the same would happen to me. I was afraid for my other children. So I decided to flee. When I came out of the bush, I was first taken to Lira, which at the time was a centre for returnees and later I moved to Gulu. In April 2005, I received amnesty. Up to this day I still have my amnesty card.
Photo: Florence Ayot with amnesty card (Serginho Roosblad/Justice Hub)
“The government should have not sent Dominic to the ICC because it was the government which failed to protect him as a child. He was abducted and is a victim. Secondly, he surrendered and came out willingly and was not captured. So the government should not have sent him to the ICC. They should have pardoned him and given him amnesty.
“I believe the community would allow him to come back and fully accept him. Other rebels who returned and got amnesty were also accepted, so Dominic will be accepted too. Dominic has many children and if government would release they would give him a chance to take care of them.
“The case of those who willingly went into the LRA is different from those who were abducted like Dominic. These men and women should appear in front of a court, but not the ICC. They should be tried in Uganda so that others can come and witness the court proceedings and people can come out and testify.
“I still feel bad about the fact that I was abducted. It wasted my time, and I came back with injuries. I have a bomb splinter in my forehead and a bullet that is still nestled in my leg. I cannot do work that requires a lot of energy. The bomb splinter in my forehead causes a lot of pain, especially when it’s cold.
“But if Dominic would come back, we could join hands and take care of our two children.”
(Photo: Serginho Roosblad/Justice Hub)
My Justice highlights the stories of individuals who work in the field of international justice or who have been affected by it and asks what does justice mean to them.