UN court hears DRC, Uganda dispute

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accused Uganda of massacring tens of thousands of civilians and plundering its rich natural resources at the start of two weeks of legal arguments at the United Nations’s highest legal body on Monday.

The DRC originally filed complaints at the International Court of Justice in 1999 against Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, seeking to halt alleged acts of armed aggression.

Fighting between ethnic Hema and Lendu militias in the DRC’s Ituri province has killed more than 50 000 people since 1999 and left an estimated 600 000 homeless.

The DRC’s ambassador to The Netherlands, Jacques Masangu-a-Mwanza, told the court in opening remarks that there is an “urgent need for this court to stop the massacres of the Congolese people by the Uganda troops”.

“Uganda continues to progress and further the military occupation of our country, giving arms to our ethnic groups fighting in the Ituri province,” Masangu-a-Mwanza said. “Uganda is behind a network of warlords who Uganda continues to supply with arms. They continue to steal our natural resources.”

The DRC is asking the UN court to order the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from its land and is seeking unspecified reparations for damage to infrastructure and loss of life.

Uganda’s leading attorney, Lucien Tibaruha, said he was not impressed with the DRC’s presentation, but declined further comment before Uganda begins its defence on Friday.

“They killed a large number of our people.
They deeply affected our infrastructure and victimised our nation,” DRC Justice Minister Honorius Kisimba Ngoy Ndalewe told the panel of 15 judges. “This looting and illegal export of natural resources must be stopped.”

Uganda and Rwanda backed two invasions of the DRC, in 1996 and 1998, sparking a five-year war that sucked in six African armies and killed nearly four million people, aid groups say.

Despite a formal end to hostilities in 2002, thousands are still believed to be dying there every month.

Even after end of the 1998-2002 war, Uganda reportedly continued to support militias, which often switch allegiances.

Under intense pressure from the UN, Uganda pulled its 5 000 troops out of the eastern DRC on May 6 2003.

The UN recently accused Uganda and Rwanda of violating an arms embargo, claiming they continue to ship weapons across the DRC’s porous borders.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, was founded in 1946 by the UN to resolve disputes between nations.

Another court in The Netherlands, the International Criminal Court, is investigating war crimes by individuals in the DRC and Uganda.—Sapa-AP

Bryan Mealer in Kinshasa contributed to this report