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Bensouda urges LRA rebel chief to surrender

28 February 2015, 20:00

Kampala -The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor pleaded on Friday for the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebel chief to surrender, vowing he would receive a fair trial just as his deputy faces.

Senior rebel leader Dominic Ongwen, a child-soldier-turned-warlord in Uganda's LRA, appeared before the ICC in The Hague for the first time in January, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called for the surrender of Ongwen's rebel supremo Joseph Kony, the last LRA rebel indicted by the ICC believed to be still at large.

"Leave the bush and encourage other members of the LRA to do the same," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, during a five-day tour of Uganda.

"Stop committing crimes against your own people and others, do the right thing and surrender."

Bensouda is visiting Uganda to update people on Ongwen's case, including renewing contacts with possible witnesses.

"The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but turn they surely will, let us leave justice to take its course," Bensouda said.

"Let us embrace the independent and impartial judicial process offered by the court as a means of bringing healing and closure for victims of mass crimes."

The LRA is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion launched in northern Uganda almost three decades ago.

Known as the "White Ant", Ongwen was notorious for leading his troops on punishment raids, which often involved slicing off the lips and ears of victims as grim calling cards.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against Museveni's newly established government.

But over the years it has moved across the porous borders of the region. The LRA shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern Central African Republic and Sudan.

"Let me be equally clear to all other LRA fighters and followers: you have nothing to fear from the ICC. We are only concerned with those top five commanders against whom the court has issued warrants of arrest," Bensouda added.

"Abandon violence and choose a new, more promising path; a path which has a future. Return to your families, communities and country, and start the process of rebuilding your life. It is not too late."

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