Government through the ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that slapped Uganda with a $325 million (Shs 1 trillion) reparation bill for its armed activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 1998-2003.
In a statement, the ministry says while the amount awarded is far less than the $11.5 billion sought by DRC, Uganda nevertheless considers the judgment unfair and wrong, just as the 2005 judgment on liability.
“In its 2005 judgment, the court ordered that at the compensation phase, the DR Congo would be required to demonstrate and prove the exact injury that was suffered as a result of specific actions of Uganda constituting internationally wrongful acts for which it is responsible. The DR Congo did not meet the burden the court placed on it. Indeed, during the compensation phase, it did not come forward with evidence of even a single specific injury suffered as a result of any action of Uganda. It is therefore, deeply unclear why the ICJ decided to depart from the requirement it previously imposed on the DR Congo let alone how it arrived at the figure of USD 325 million,” the statement reads in part.
In 2005, ICJ found Uganda culpable of among others plundering the resources of DRC while the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) carried out armed operations in the vast country. Uganda insists that the findings of wrongdoing by the UPDF widely known as one of the ‘most disciplined forces in the world’ are false.
Uganda’s Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka also questioned why the UPDF was singled out in a conflict where there were other belligerents.
“The UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Forces) was and remains a disciplined force and a force for good in all the countries it has operated in to this day,” wrote Kiwanuka in a statement.
Uganda was in DRC with other countries; Rwanda, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe where they engaged in fighting with forces from Congo and in some cases, among themselves. With continued demand from DRC that these leave their country, it was decided at a meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia that all parties cease-fire, release hostages and exchange prisoners of war, forces to disengage immediately, withdraw all foreign forces and for groups within Congo, to engage in a national dialogue.
Kiwanuka argues that the conflict was hence resolved in that peace accord in Lusaka and that the court’s decision “is yet another failure to understand or appreciate African matters and makes no contribution to current efforts at resolving, on our own, the security issues that persist.”
“Uganda was not alone in DR Congo during the relevant period. The court itself acknowledged the presence of numerous other belligerents. Let it not be forgotten that the conflict was resolved through a peace accord signed, the Lusaka Agreement which confirms the existence of other players during the material; period. It is therefore regrettable that Uganda has been singled out in this fashion. Many will understandably ask; why is Uganda alone that is being asked to pay for whatever supposedly went wrong during the conflict? The answer is that; it is because Uganda has always believed in the international system and hence agreed to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1963 shortly after independence,” says the statement.
The statement adds that Uganda regrets that this decision has come at a time when its working relationship with DRC has greatly improved. The two countries are now working together in different areas including security, infrastructure, regional economic integration.
At the end of last year, Uganda and DRC forces launched attacks against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) that have been having their bases in eastern Congo.
“The problems that led to Uganda’s presence in the DR Congo between 1998 and 2003 were not solved then and they are still not solved even now. In any event, Uganda continues to discuss the matter with DR Congo government for purposes of securing a lasting and mutually acceptable solution. Uganda considers the judgment an undue interference in this process and in African affairs generally, a fact towards which the court appears insufficiently sensitive. It is precisely because of such interference by external actors that there is so much chaos on the African continent,” the statement further says. URN