A recently captured Ugandan rebel commander who is accused of helping plan massacres and kidnap countless children will be handed over to the International Criminal Court, Ugandan and Western officials said on Tuesday.
Dominic Ongwen, a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army and one of the most notorious fugitives in Africa, was detained by American Special Forces last week in Central African Republic, the officials said.
Uganda, which was terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army for years, initially indicated that it wanted to try Mr. Ongwen itself. The Ugandans said they had the capacity to hold a fair trial, and just last month Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, called on African nations to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, describing it as “a vessel for oppressing Africa.”
“I’m done with that court,” Reuters quoted Mr. Museveni as saying in December. “I won’t work with them again.”
By Tuesday, Uganda seemed to have changed its mind.
“Finally, it has been decided,” Uganda’s military spokesman, Paddy Ankunda, said on Twitter. “Ongwen will be tried at the ICC in The Hague.”
Mr. Ongwen, believed to be around 35, was a top commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group that originated in Uganda but in recent years slunk north into the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, leaving a trail of burned villages and crushed skulls. The group is believed to have slaughtered thousands of civilians and kidnapped tens of thousands of children, forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves.
Early this month, Mr. Ongwen abruptly surrendered to the Seleka armed group in northern Central African Republic, officials said. The Seleka fighters, who overthrew the government in their own country in 2013, now want the $5 million reward the American government had offered for Mr. Ongwen’s capture. Some analysts believe Mr. Ongwen turned himself in because he feared that Joseph Kony, the mercurial leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, wanted to kill him.
Mr. Kony is arguably the most wanted man on the African continent, and is believed to be flamboyantly violent. Defectors have said that he speaks in tongues and often impersonates spirits, including one called Who Are You and another known as King Bruce. He has eluded capture for more than 20 years.