Captured Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebel chief Dominic Ongwen will be sent to the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Uganda's military said Tuesday.
Ongwen, who is in the custody of US special forces after surrendering in the Central African Republic (CAR) last week, has been wanted by the ICC for almost a decade to face charges including murder, enslavement, inhumane acts and directing attacks against civilians.
"Finally it has been decided, Dominic Ongwen will be tried at the ICC in The Hague," Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said, ending speculation that Kampala might seek to put the ex-rebel on trial in its own court.
"Ongwen will be conveyed to The Hague by CAR authorities… in consultation with the relevant bodies," Ankunda said, adding he would be transferred "hopefully very soon," without giving further details.
The LRA has been blamed for the slaughter of more than 100,000 people and the kidnapping of more than 60,000 children during a three-decade-long campaign across five central African nations.
A former child soldier himself, Ongwen was a senior aide to LRA leader and warlord Joseph Kony.
Ongwen, who is in his mid-30s, is accused of directing bloody campaigns in northern Uganda in the early 2000s where thousands were killed or abducted to be used as child soldiers or sex slaves, as well as carrying out attacks on civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
His troops excelled in punishment raids where they would slice the lips and ears off victims as a grim calling card.
The US State Department accuses him of "murder, enslavement and cruel treatment of civilians", and had offered a $5 million (about Sh456 million) bounty for information leading to his capture.
Uganda is a signatory to the ICC and is legally bound to hand over wanted suspects to the court. However, President Yoweri Museveni last month called for African nations to quit the ICC, accusing the court of being used as a "tool to target" the continent.
More than 12,000 ex-LRA fighters — mainly foot soldiers who were themselves abducted by the gunmen — have been pardoned under a government amnesty designed to encourage those still in the bush to surrender.
But presidential spokeswoman Lindah Nabusayi said Tuesday the amnesty did not cover those accused of crimes against humanity, saying the president would not "pardon terrorists who have abused the sanctity of human life".
Long driven out of Uganda, small bands of LRA fighters now roam the forest regions of CAR, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan.
Kony, who claims mystical-religious powers, has long been reported to be based in the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave.
On Monday, NTV Uganda broadcast an audio interview with a man the station said was Ongwen, who said he had surrendered because he was "wasting my time in the bush".
Ongwen, in an appeal to remaining fighters to surrender, said he fled because Kony had wanted to kill him, telling comrades he "only wants to be chief and for you to work for him like a slave".