Uganda 'violated DRC's sovereignty'

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’s highest court, ruled on Monday that Uganda violated the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by sending armed troops into the country.

The court said Uganda has been found guilty of notably “occupying Ituri [a region in the DRC], violations of sovereignty, illegal use of force, violations of international human rights laws and looting and plunder” between August 1998 and June 2003.

“The court finds that the Republic of Uganda, by the conduct of its armed forces, which committed acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the Congolese civilian population, destroyed villages ... trained child soldiers, incited ethnic conflict and failed to take a measure to such conflict ... violated its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” presiding Judge Shi Jiuyong read from the judgement on 14 points.

However, the judges ruled that the Ugandan government did not carry out “a deliberate policy of terror” as the DRC had claimed.

Uganda has an obligation to pay reparations, the court said.
A figure for those reparations will be set at a later stage, but the court did say it felt the DRC’s request for damages of between $6-billion and $10-billion was “appropriate”.

The judges also ruled that the DRC violated the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations when its army attacked the Ugandan embassy in Kinshasa in 1998. The DRC was also ordered to pay damages over this incident.

Uganda’s Attorney General, Khiddu Makubuya, did not want to comment on the judgement on Monday, saying he wanted to read the entire 104-page judgement first.

The DRC, on the other hand, was very satisfied with the ruling.

“It is a wonderful decision for the DRC,” Jacques Masangu-a-Mwanza, the Congolese ambassador to The Hague, said.

“We will negotiate” about the reparations, he added.

“There will be diplomatic meetings between our two countries, we will continue to talk, on top of that we are both countries of the Great Lakes region,” according to the diplomat.

The DRC filed its claim with the ICJ in June 1999, asking the court to condemn Uganda of invading its territory, massacring civilians and plundering its natural resources, such as diamonds and gold.

Uganda had told the court in a series of hearings in April that it had acted to protect its national security by fighting against Ugandan rebels who had settled on the DRC’s territory amid a deadly 1998-2003 civil war.

The court, however, said on Monday that the military incursions could not be “justified as actions in self-defence”.

The ICJ is the UN’s highest court, mandated to rule on conflicts between states at their demand. A ruling by the ICJ is final and without appeal. However, the court has no means to enforce its rulings.

A series of peace accords eventually ended the five-year war on the DRC’s soil, which involved at least half-a-dozen neighbouring countries and left about three million people dead, either directly from the fighting or indirectly from related famine and diseases.

The peace process in the region remains very fragile, mostly because of ongoing armed conflicts in the east of the DRC, the region bordering on Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

The DRC on Monday entered the second day of a constitutional referendum, the first in a series of votes planned for 2006 culminating in the first multiparty polls in the country in 40 years, ending the period of transition following the peace accords.—Sapa-AFP

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