United States upholds $5 million bounty in hunt for Joseph Kony

Rebel leader Joseph Kony
The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony answers journalists' questions on November 12, 2006 at Ri-Kwamba in Southern Sudan following a meeting with UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland. Egeland met Kony, the elusive leader of Uganda's notorious rebel Lord's Resistance Army and one of the world's most-wanted war crimes suspects. The brief meeting, hoped to boost peace talks to end northern Uganda's brutal, two-decade war, ended inconclusively with Kony griping about Kampala and war crimes charges and denying the rebels hold captives. Courtesy Photo/Stuart Pprice/AFP/Getty Images.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The United States government has maintained a reward of up to USD 5 million [approx. UGX 18.2 billion Shillings] for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of Joseph Kony, the leader of a rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA].  

The reward was first announced by the Obama administration in 2013, under a provision in the War Crimes Rewards Programme authored by then US secretary of state John Kerry.

The provision expanded the scope of the program that had previously allowed for rewards to be offered for war crimes suspects wanted only by international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.  

At the time, the reward was for information about Kony, his assistants Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, who had all been indicted by the International Criminal Court [ICC].

While Okot Odhiambo is reported to have died, Dominic Ongwen was later arrested and on Thursday 4, January 2021, he was convicted of 61 out of the 70 charges for which he faced trial in The Hague-based court.   

According to the judgment, Ongwen was found guilty of personally leading raids in which, the Sinia brigade which he commanded, looted property and animals, set fire on homes, burnt people alive, killed babies, and exploited girls as sex slaves.   

“He gave instructions to loot food, abduct people, burn down the camp and the barracks,” the Presiding Judge Schmitt said. “An old woman who could not carry her load was strangled and had her throat cut,” he added. “His men shot, beat and abducted civilians in the head and the face to make sure they were dead.”   

The United States Department of State said in a statement this morning that the conviction is a significant step for justice and accountability for atrocities committed against the civilian population in Northern Uganda.

The United States facilitated the voluntary surrender and transfer of Ongwen to the ICC in 2015.  

“While we continue to believe the ICC is in need of significant reform, we are pleased to see Ongwen brought to justice. There was extensive outreach to victims’ groups in northern Uganda during Ongwen’s trial, including the broadcasting of the trial to affected communities,” Ned Price, the Department of State Spokesperson said.  

Price said after the conviction that a bounty on Kony’s head is upheld, so that he equally faces trial for ordering widespread atrocities committed in northern Uganda for almost two decades.

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Kony is accused of ordering mass killings recruiting boys to fight and keeping girls as sex slaves. 

The LRA is estimated to have kidnapped at least 25,000 children in Uganda alone, while the fighting between the rebels and government troops displaced almost two million people from their homes in the country from 1987 to 2006.  

Anyone with information about Kony or his whereabouts can email wcrp@state.gov or send a WhatsApp text message to +1-202-975-5468.