By Vision Reporter
DOMINIC Ongwen, one of the most senior commanders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) next to Joseph Kony, reportedly surrendered to U.S. forces in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, according to the US State Department.
Abducted by the LRA at the age of 10, Ongwen has risen in the ranks of the rebel group, and was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for multiple crimes against humanity including murder, pillaging, and enslavement.
Defence department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said "efforts to establish a full and positive identity of the alleged defector are underway”.
She said if Ongwen did actually turn himself in, "his defection would be a historic blow to the LRA's command structure."
The LRA is blamed for killing and kidnapping tens of thousands of people across four African countries over the last 30 years.
The group has battled the Ugandan government for over two decades before recently breaking into bands of roving fighters that have often attacked and pillaged settlements in remote areas.
The United States offered up to $5 million for information leading to Ongwen's capture.
Ongwen was in 2005 thought to have been killed in combat, but genetic tests by the ICC confirmed that the remains, which had been positively identified by captured LRA commanders, were not his.
Here is the US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki at today's press briefing in the USA
QUESTION: There are reports out of Uganda that a senior LRA commander has turned himself in to U.S. troops in the Central African Republic. Do you know anything about this?
MS. PSAKI: We are aware of reports that Dominic Ongwen, one of the LRA’s senior leaders, is in the custody of U.S. forces deployed to the Central African Republic in support of the African Union’s regional counter LRA task force. In coordination with the AU RTF, U.S. military forces took custody of an individual claiming to be a defector from the LRA. That individual later identified himself as Ongwen. Efforts to establish full and positive identification continue, so I don’t have confirmation of that at this point. If the individual proves to be Ongwen, his defection would represent a historic blow to the LRA’s command structure. It is clear that despite the regional challenges, the AU regional task force continues to make great strides toward ending the LRA threat.
So we – it’s obviously new information as of today, but --
QUESTION: Do you know if there – if the military people who have custody of him now have reason to believe that he is not, in fact, the person who he says he is?
MS. PSAKI: I think – I don’t have more details than what I’ve offered. The Department of Defense may have more specifics --
QUESTION: Are they --
MS. PSAKI: -- but obviously, they’re working to confirm the details.
QUESTION: And is it the Pentagon that people should be asking on these, or is it AFRICOM?
MS. PSAKI: I can check on that. I mean, you can certainly start with the Pentagon and they can probably direct you to the right people.
QUESTION: All right. But I mean, presumably, you know what this guy looks like, right? So I mean, does he bear a resemblance to --
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speculate. I’ll point anyone to the Department of Defense or the appropriate military contacts.
Dominic Ongwen reportedly surrenders