Vincent Otti (c. 1946 – 2 October 2007 ) was deputy-leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel guerrilla army operating mainly in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. He was one of the five persons for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first arrest warrants on 8 July 2005. Rumours of his death began to circulate in October 2007 but were not confirmed until January 2008.
Otti was born around 1946 in the Atiak sub-county of Gulu District, Uganda, and his parents died when he was young. He was working as a shopkeeper in Kampala when he joined the Lord's Resistance Army in 1987.
Lord's Resistance Army
Vincent Otti joined the Lord's Resistance Army when it was founded in 1987. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant General and became the LRA's vice-chairman, second in command to Joseph Kony. He was reportedly a member of the "Control Altar", the core leadership group that devises the LRA's strategy.
In 1994, the LRA attacked Atiak, Otti's home town, killing more than 200 people. Otti's brothers reportedly fled the village after the family was accused of breeding a "killer". He is alleged to have led the Barlonyo massacre in February 2004, during which more than 300 villagers were shot, hacked and burned to death.
During the Juba peace talks, which began in July 2006, Otti emerged as the chief spokesperson for the LRA. According to LRA defector Sunday Otto, Otti was also the LRA's leading advocate of joining the peace talks. Otti's push to negotiate an end of the conflict led to tension with Kony and a growing split in the LRA.
Indictment by the ICC
On 8 July 2005, a Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Otti had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. He was charged with 21 counts of war crimes (including murder, pillaging, inducing rape, forced enlisting of children, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, and cruel treatment of civilians) and 11 counts of crimes against humanity (including murder, sexual enslavement, and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering).
In October 2007, sources in the Ugandan military reported that "Otti was killed on or around 8 October 2007 during a high command meeting that Kony convened at his base camp in Garamba", following a disagreement with Kony over the peace process. LRA defector Sunday Otto, who claims to have been present during the execution, states that Otti was killed on 2 October, along with two other officers, and that Otti was the impetus behind the negotiations for peace, a view that is supported by the late conservationist Lawrence Anthony in his book The Last Rhinos (2012). Anthony writes that a few days before Otti was killed, Anthony had visited Otti in the bush to firm up an agreement that Anthony would help communicate the LRA's case at the 2005 round of peace talks, in exchange for the LRA's protection of endangered rhino species in the Congo. LRA spokesperson Martin Ojul has repeatedly denied that Otti was executed and claimed that Otti was simply suffering from cholera. On 7 November 2007, Kony told Gulu district chairman Norbert Mao that Otti was alive and had been detained for plotting to kill Kony and "conspiring with the enemies of the LRA". Kony also stated that Otti would not be allowed to speak with anyone until the LRA decided it was appropriate.
The President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said on 7 November 2007 that Otti's status remained unclear. The government of Southern Sudan has sent a team to the Congolese border to investigate Otti's fate.
The government newspaper New Vision reported on 22 November, based on statements from LRA defectors, that Otti had been executed by firing squad, along with "many others", on 2 October. Defectors said that he had asked Kony to allow him to speak to his son before his execution. "To strengthen Kony's spirit", Otti's body was said to not have been buried for three days after his death. Defectors also claimed Otti had been killed because of his enthusiasm for peace, thus raising questions about Kony's commitment to the peace negotiations. On 21 December 2007 a diplomatic briefing claimed that Otti was executed on 2 October 2007 at Kony's home. According to this account, when Otti arrived there he found that the home was surrounded by Kony's guards, and before entering he made a phone call to Kony due to his concern about this, but was reassured by Kony. Inside the house, however, LRA commanders held Otti at gunpoint and told him that he was arrested; he was then bound, blindfolded and taken outside, where he was shot, despite his pleas for mercy. Kony subsequently claimed that Otti had received foreign funds and was trying to kill him. On 23 January 2008, Kony confirmed that Otti was dead, but did not offer any details.
Notes and references
- Confirmed by Joseph Kony on 23 January 2008."Uganda's LRA confirm Otti death". BBC News. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
- Ocowun, Chris (25 November 2007). "Kony gives away Otti's telephone". New Vision. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
- Grace Matsiko and Samuel Egadu (10 November 2007). "Uganda: Otti's Relatives Plead With Kony Not to Kill Him". The Monitor. Accessed on 12 November 2007.
- Noel Mwakugu (7 November 2007). "Profile: LRA deputy Vincent Otti". BBC News. Accessed on 12 November 2007.
- Cawthorne, Andrew (2007-11-30). "Deputy of Uganda's rebel LRA executed: deserter". Reuters. Kampala. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- International Criminal Court (5 July 2005). PDF (202 KB). Accessed on November 8, 2007.
- International Criminal Court (14 October 2005). "Warrant of Arrest unsealed against five LRA Commanders". Accessed on November 12, 2007.
- Alfred Wasike, Chris Ocowun & Dennis Ojwee (6 November 2007). "LRA boss Kony names new deputy". The New Vision. Accessed on 8 November 2007.
- BBC News (7 November 2007). "Ugandan rebel deputy feared dead". Accessed on 8 November 2007.
- "How Vincent Otti was killed", The New Vision, 9 December 2007
- Frank Nyakairu (11 November 2007). "LRA without Otti becomes faceless". The Monitor. Accessed on 12 November 2007.
- ["The Last Rhinos - http://www.thelastrhinos.com/index.html (book), Anthony, L. and Spence, G."]
- Alfred Wasike, Dennis Ojwee and Caroline Ayugi (8 November 2007). "LRA leader speaks out on deputy Otti". The New Vision. Accessed on 8 November 2007.
- Frank Nyakairu, Grace Matsiko and Samuel Egadu (8 November 2007). "S. Sudan president speaks on Otti's fate". The Monitor. Accessed on November 8, 2007.
- "Lord's Resistance Army leader killed: report", DPA (IOL), 22 November 2007.
- "Otti 'executed by Uganda rebels'", BBC News, 21 December 2007.
- "Kony confirms Otti’s death", The New Vision, 23 January 2008