Former ICC employee accused of funding LRA rebel leader 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 International Criminal Court (ICC) has been asked to investigate one of its former employees over allegations of facilitating and funding Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Brigid Inder, who was a special gender advisor to former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bansouda (2012-2016) is accused of personally, and through intermediaries funding the LRA warlord between 2006 and 2017.

Inder was the founder and former executive director of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) who enjoyed a long career as a leading activist working on gender equality issues. 

In a press statement released September 21, Joanna Frivet, a legal representative of former LRA child soldiers alleged that during the said period, Inder aided and abetted the commission of crimes against humanity in Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and then-Sudan/South Sudan.

Inder’s first contact with Kony reportedly happened in October 2006 in DRC through the intermediary of a known LRA supporter based in the UK. During this meeting, Inder reportedly handed over $25,000 (about Shs 85 million) as an “appreciation” for receiving her.

“Between December 2006 and October 2007, Inder allegedly transferred funds to the LRA on at least six occasions. According to direct witnesses, between $40,000 (Shs 136 million) to $60,000 (Shs 204 million) was transferred each time through Western Union and picked up by LRA commanders in Juba,” Frivet’s statement reads in Part.

Kony’s children using WhatsApp group to build family bond
Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)

The funds were purportedly sent from the UK in the name of a person used by Inder to first contact Kony and used for buying bullets, hand grenades, bombs, and various types of weapons including AK-47 assault rifles from the Janjaweed faction. She reportedly used junior staff members of her organization to transfer the funds from the Netherlands in their own names through Western Union to LRA members.

Inder is also accused of two incidences of human trafficking for sexual slavery. It’s reported that in 2016, when she visited Kony in Garamba National Park in the DRC, Kony requested her to bring back his “wives” who had escaped from LRA captivity. This request was allegedly honored by Inder who decided to partner with local organizations in northern Uganda that worked with former LRA abductees to identify former wives of high-ranking LRA commanders.

In 2017, according to Frivet, Inder returned with five former LRA abductees whom she offered incentives to travel to Garamba along with a staff from a local partner organization, 31 bits to meet Kony. Two of the women, a former “wife” to Vincent Otti and Kony’s “wife” were however forcibly retained by the LRA rebels on Kony’s orders. 

However, upon return from Garamba, Inder reportedly told the three women not to speak about the matter and their fate remains unknown to date.

“This incident is not only a blatant betrayal of trust but also a serious violation of the principles and values that Ms Inder purportedly stood for,” read the statement.

Adding: “It is crucial that such actions are thoroughly investigated, that those responsible are held accountable for their actions, and the victims be appropriately compensated.”

Maria Mabinty Kamara, ICC outreach coordinator for East Africa didn’t immediately reply to this reporter’s request for comment on the allegations against Inder in a request to her officials email Tuesday 19, September 2023.

However, in a WhatsApp chat on Wednesday 20th, Kamara stated; “We have been encountering challenges with the official email system since last week. I will respond to your email when the problem gets resolved and can access my emails.” 

Uganda government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo also offered no comment on the matter when contacted by telephone Wednesday 20th, September 2023.

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Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson Brig Felix Kulaigye however said the army hadn’t yet received the information on the allegations. Kony waged a bloody rebellion against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 1986 – spanning two decades resulting in the death of more than 100,000 people and the displacement of 1.5 million people in northern Uganda. 

In 2005, the ICC, established in 2002 to hold accountable those who committed some of the worst crimes in the world issued an arrest warrant against Kony along with four other top commanders of the LRA including his second-in-command Vincent Otti, Dominic Ongwen, Okot Odhiambo, and Raska Lukwiya for war crimes in northern Uganda. Cases against Lukwiya and Odhiambo were withdrawn following their deaths in 2006 and 2013 respectively while Otti’s death remains unconfirmed.

Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in prison sentence for rape, murder, and child abduction. In November last year, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan asked the ICC judges for authorization to hold a hearing to confirm the charges against Kony, in his absence 17 years after the arrest warrant was issued.