By Taddeo Bwambale
The Ugandan army says it has uncovered the remains of Okot Odhiambo, a top commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel outfit.
Odhiambo was one of five LRA commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He is presumed to have been killed in 2013 during clashes between the army and LRA fighters in South Sudan, the Central African Republic or northeast Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We have uncovered his grave. We are now in the process of carrying out DNA tests to ascertain that he is indeed the one,” army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda confirmed in an interview with Sunday Vision.
Details about where Odhiambo’s remains were uncovered, and when the DNA tests will be performed remain classified.
Odhiambo’s ICC warrant of arrest identifies him as the leader of a 2004 attack on an unnamed internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp that resulted in the death, the wounding and abduction of civilians by LRA fighters.
Several accounts link him the February 2004 attack on Barlonyo IDP camp in Lira district, one of the largest massacres by the LRA in which 300 people died.
Residents were burnt alive in their homes, hacked to death with machetes, stabbed, bludgeoned and shot as they tried to escape.
ICC documents show that following the attack, Odhiambo reported the magnitude of the killings to Vincent Otti (another LRA commander), who in turn communicated the event and its consequences to Joseph Kony (LRA leader).
“…the evidence submitted, including accounts from redacted and intercepted radio communications, suggests that Okot Odhiambo commanded the LRA operation which attacked the IDP Camp…” an excerpt from his 2005 arrest warrant reads.
He is described as a “ruthless killer,” “the one who killed the most,” and as “a ‘bitter’ man who will kill anyone,” quoting accounts of former LRA commanders and members.
Odhiambo was charged with 10 counts, including two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and enslavement) and eight counts of war crimes (murder, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging forced enlisting of children).
He is alleged to have operated as brigade commander of Trinkle and Stockree brigades, and as deputy commander of the LRA.
If his death is confirmed, it will be a sign of a huge blow to the LRA’s leadership and command structure, according to Invisible Children, an organisation that tracks the rebel group’s atrocities.
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UPDF finds body of LRA''s Okot Odhiambo