Dominic Ongwen, now 45, was convicted of murder, rape, and torture and was sentenced to 25 years in jail. He is the first ex-child soldier from Uganda to be found guilty and sentenced by the International Criminal Court.
When Ongwen was nine years old, he was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group, and then later, he became a feared commander.
In February, he was found guilty of 61 of 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The offenses stem from attacks in Uganda in 2004 on four camps for internally displaced people. In the lawsuit, which was heard in The Hague, more than 4,000 victims testified.
Ongwen was convicted of sexual slavery, forced marriage, and the rape of seven women who were kidnapped and forced to live with him. In addition to murder, attempted murder, and torture, these charges were brought against him.
Despite the seriousness of the crimes, the judges who sentenced Ongwen on Thursday said they chose not to impose the full life sentence because he was kidnapped as a boy on his way to school in the late 1980s and groomed by rebels who had murdered his parents.
They discovered, however, that as an adult, he had committed serious crimes during the LRA’s two-decade reign of terror in the 2000s.
“The chamber… is confronted with a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims, “said presiding judge Bertram Schmitt. “However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering at the hands of the group.”
The judges expressed hope that he will be given a chance to rehabilitate. Victims will now begin the process of obtaining redress as a result of his prosecution.
Dominic Ongwen, also known as White Ant because his surname means “born at the time of the white ant,” was the leader of the Sinia brigade and one of the most feared warriors in the LRA height of his career.
In 2015, he surrendered to US forces in the Central African Republic (CAR), who later handed him over to Ugandan forces.
The LRA has been working in Uganda and neighboring countries for more than 30 years.
It became infamous for abducting thousands of children to use as soldiers or sex slaves and mutilating civilians under the leadership of Joseph Kony.
The army drove the LRA out of Uganda in 2005, and the rebels fled to what is now South Sudan. They finally set up camp near the Democratic Republic of Congo’s border.
Later, they relocated to CAR, pretending to be a criminal organization engaged in poaching and illegal mining.
Arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and other top movement commanders are also pending.