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Acholi cannot handle the effects of the LRA war, ICC told

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th May 2018 02:42 PM

Musis was giving testimony on the Acholi culture and trauma in the Northern region during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander.

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Musis was giving testimony on the Acholi culture and trauma in the Northern region during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander.

Former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. AFP Photo
 
COURT
 
KAMPALA - Acholi culture does not have the capacity to address the effects of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in Northern Uganda, a Makerere University professor of psychiatry has told the International Criminal Court (ICC).
 
According to the a report by International Justice Monitor, Seggane Musisi, while testifying before the court on Wednesday and Thursday this week, said that the conflict left northern Uganda with many orphans and many women having children out of rape, a situation that the Acholi culture has never had to confront before.
 
Musisi was giving testimony on the Acholi culture and trauma in the Northern region during the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander.
 
Ongwen, who is also Acholi, is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between July 2002 and December 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
 
Musisi said that women with children born out of rape are facing a severe difficulty earning a livelihood because most are not married and do not have land to cultivate.
 
He said in Acholi culture it’s a man who inherits or gives land and in the case of a child born out of rape, often there was no father to give land but, he was quick to add that he woman can only own land through purchasing it, something that these traumatised women cannot afford to do.
 
“So, there is always a problem. Sometimes our cultures don’t have answers to these questions because they never happened before. There were no mass orphans in traditional Acholi culture, but now they are here,” Musisi said.
 
Musisi was called as an expert witness by one of the groups of victims in the trial. The group comprises of 1,501 victims who are represented by a legal team led by Paolina Massidda.
 
He told the court that during the conflict he treated several former LRA members who had suffered trauma and other mental health issues and, has done research on mental health and Acholi culture over the years.
 
He said that former abductees who choose to come back have difficulties in establishing trusting relationships even within their surviving families.
 
 “Not only do they have difficulties in trusting their family, the family may also have difficulties in trusting them. Some people may feel that once a killer, always a killer,” he said.
 
Musisi observed that family ties in African and Acholi society are so close that it is common for siblings and cousins to sleep in the same bed but the conflict changed that.
 
“I have done it. I’m sure other Africans have done it. We are that close. How do you now go to share a blanket or a bed with someone who you know maybe killed your father. How do you listen to a girl who has been subjected to massive rapes and changed her values towards men and sexuality? How could she relate to a younger sister?” he said.
 
His report titled ‘the desecration of Acholi culture’ was admitted as evidence in the court during the hearing.
 
Krispus Ayena Odongo, Ongwen’s lead lawyer, questioned Musisi about the removal from power of two Ugandan presidents who were from the North and the effect that it had on the psyche of Northern Ugandans.
 
Odongo also asked him about Kony and how he controlled the LRA and what that said about the mental state of LRA members.
 
He said that Ongwen was injured in September 2003 and remains disabled from that injury, was imprisoned by the LRA when he sustained the injury and remained under close surveillance for a long time while being forced to participate in attacks.
 
Odongo then asked Musisi what effect imprisonment and long-term injury would have on the mental state of Ongwen.
 
In response, Musisi said a psychiatrist would need to speak to a person, among other things, to be able to assess their mental state.
 
“I have never done that for Mr. Ongwen. I can’t answer that question,” he said.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said Musisi was the last witness in the victims’ phase of the trial.
 
He said that next, the defense would make its opening statement in defense of Ongwen and this will start after the court’s summer recess, but the date would be announced later. This year the court’s summer recess will be from July 20 to August 13.

 

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