Uganda, Independent Magazine, Inglês


Ex-LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo (C) interacts with his defence lawyers at Gulu High Court.

GULU, UGANDA | THE INDEPENDENT | Former warlord Thomas Kwoyelo has revealed that Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army -LRA spared his life on the advice of his spirits during their time in the Bush.

This was part of the testimony Kwoyelo presented before the International Crimes Division of the High Court sitting at Gulu High Court. He is facing 78 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity all committed during the LRA insurgency in northern Uganda.

Kwoyelo told the court that he, alongside LRA Deputy leader Vincent Otti, was arrested by fellow combatants, on Kony’s orders following allegations that they were plotting to surrender to the government in 2008.

During the time, the government was engaged in peace talks with the LRA to end the war.   Following the arrest, Kony visited a hut where Kwoyelo was bound and called him three times after which he told him to get out.

However, he responded that he couldn’t move because his hands and legs were tied and sisal had penetrated part of his skin.   Kwoyelo said they later moved to Kony’s home where he was offered a plastic chair brought by Kony’s son Salim Saleh, but he declined citing he was a prisoner and chose to sit on the ground with folded legs. In the ensuing conversation, Kwoyelo recalls that Kony told him about the rumour of his planned escape together with Vincent Otti and others.

But during the conversation, Kony revealed that on the night he was arrested, a spirit known as Mama Cellini from Sudan had told him that Kwoyelo was innocent. The spirit, a guardian of the sick people reportedly cautioned him that if he killed Kwoyelo, he would also be killed the same way.

“He told me this is the reason why the spirits brought to him the reports that I had no hand in the alleged defection and that’s the reason he didn’t lay his hands on me because consequently whatever he did would have happened to him (Kony),” said Kwoyelo.

According to Kwoyelo, Kony was possessed by several other spirits, among them the Director of Intelligence called “Who are You” from the Democratic Republic of Congo which descended on him on April 7, another spirit called Sam Sui from China, which helped in battle and above all the chairman of all Spirits known as Juma Oris Debo.

“The Spirit of Mama Cellini and “Who Are You” were the main spirits that were responsible for healing the sick, revealing names of medicine, protecting the children, and helping expectant mothers to deliver safely while “Who are You” was responsible for giving all reports on plans against Kony.

He told the court that Kony revealed that some of the top LRA commanders were envious of the promotions he had been given Kwoyelo, a reason they included him along with Vincent Otti so that they get rid of him.

Kony added that he had wanted to promote him to Director of Medical Services, a decision that seemingly didn’t go down well with the other senior commanders.   He added that Kony later had removed all his ranks, withdrew his gun and made him a floating officer. Kwoyelo recalls that Kony told him that while his two wives would be returned, he would only be left with four escorts.

The Battle in Garamba

During the court sitting, Kwoyelo recalled how the government of Uganda launched an attack against the LRA in 2008 using warplanes. He recollects that the planes bombed the LRA rebels after which Kony picked him up and asked him to return to the sick bay.  He also returned his guns.

When the fight later intensified, he said Kony sent a communication to his senior commanders to split into different groups in Congo. But on March 3, 2009, the UPDF attacked the LRA rebels leading to his shooting.

“I was shot at 8 am when they attacked, I didn’t fall there and then, I ran a distance and hid with two of my escorts. When I fell, I could hear the sound of gunshots and bombs, but I had no energy and couldn’t get up. The two escorts stood by me, one of them was called Opiyo and another was called Okello,” he told the court.

Afterwards, Kwoyelo said he heard the sound of a hovering gunship plane. He said that his escorts Opiyo and Okello carried him towards a nearby stream, at a place which had earlier been burnt by wildfire. From there, he was hidden under trees so that he couldn’t be spotted by the government forces.

Kwoyelo noted that at the time, he had some medicine and medical equipment and that all the children who stayed with him had some medical knowledge which they applied in an attempt to save his life after the shooting. He however rejected the penicillin tablets they had offered because he was badly injured and had already lost energy.   Kwoyelo noted, that when the guns went silent, his bodyguards relocated him to a location about 10 meters away.

“…but when I tried to lift my right hand, it was numb, even the right leg was numb. I was however still able to lift my left hand and left leg. All my left side was paralyzed since they had shot me on the right side and one of my rib bones was broken,” he said, adding that he later became unconscious for several hours.

“When I had regained consciousness, I found they had cut two pieces of wood, they were tied with a rope in the form of a cross and placed above my head implying that they had lost hope for my life,” he said.

UPDF Combs Battle Scene

He told the court that he later started hearing voices from the direction of the place where he had been. Kwoyelo said he had wanted to whistle so that if the voices he was hearing were for the LRA soldiers, they could come to his rescue, but he was too weak to blow the whistle.   He added that it didn’t take long before he started hearing gunshots near the stream adding that even where he had taken refuge, bullets were flying over his head.

“The bullets were passing near me and making a whizzing sound. I thought this was my moment to die. I could hear the footsteps of people running back after firing. It didn’t take long before I started hearing another round of gunshots.”

He, however, said that thought came over and assured him that those people were cowards and that he would only talk to them when they came close. Kwoyelo said he later saw three people walking in a military formation known as Atwa, with each of them having a gap of five meters between them moving toward his direction.

“When they moved and were very close to me, close enough that I was able to see his gumboots.  I saw the one who was leading, his gun was open, and had a 20-litre jerrycan tied to his back,” he said, adding that the soldiers would look closely at every step they made but luckily, he was covered by leaves from one of the trees they had cut.

According to Kwoyelo, the person who was leading the soldiers was a step or two from him, forcing him to call for help. “I spoke to him telling him Brother; if you are looking for me, then I am here, if you can help me, please help, if you want to kill me, please do.”

He, however, said the soldiers instead fled after he spoke, while others cried while running in different directions. Kwoyelo noted that afterwards, one person hid behind a tree and asked him to identify himself.

Upon identifying himself, the soldier asked him to get up and raise his hands, but he was unable to stand because he was badly injured.   The soldier, however, insisted according to Kwoyelo that he must get up and raise his hands which gave him the hard task of turning upside down and laying on his back.

Arrival in Uganda

Kwoyelo told the court he arrived in Uganda on March 4, 2009, through Entebbe Airport where an ambulance drove him to Bombo Military Hospital. While at Bombo Military Hospital, he recounted that he was operated on by Chinese and Korean doctors for the injuries he sustained.

After his discharge from Bombo Military Hospital, Kwoyelo told the court that he was discharged and later taken to Wakiso at an undisclosed location where they put him in a house for three months. He said he later learned the house belonged to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.

Kwoyelo concluded the presentation of his background in the LRA since his abduction in 1987 on Monday and commenced offering his defence against the 78 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between 1993 and 2005 in Kilak County in present Day Amuru District on Tuesday.

He has already denied three counts of charges relating to the murder of Albert Obwoya in 1993, forceful abduction on September 4, 1994, and attack against Jakamino Oruk in 1996 all allegedly carried in Abera Village in Pabbo Sub-County, present-day Amuru District.




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