Uganda has protested a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to pay $325 million in reparations to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for alleged armed invasion on foreign territory, in a war that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced.
On Wednesday, the UN’s highest judicial body ruled that Uganda army’s 1998-2003 intervention violated international sovereignty and led to the killing and torture of civilians and the destruction of villages.
The presiding judge Joan Donoghue said Uganda must pay $325 million in reparations to the DRC in five yearly instalments of $65 million to start in September of this year.
In a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs ministry, Uganda cited bias in the court ruling since Uganda was not the only belligerent in the Congo conflict and it’s army -the UPDF is widely known as a disciplined force.
Uganda contends that while the amount awarded is far less than sought by the DRC ($11.5BN), the justification for the $325m compensation is not clear, the court decision is unfair and wrong just as the previous judgement. Uganda also questions why the presiding judges departed from an earlier position to press Congo to prove the exact injury it suffered from actions of the Ugandan army on its territory.
“For the record, Uganda disputes and rejects the findings of wrongdoing by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), widely known as one of the most disciplined forces in the world.” part of the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads.
“As already stated, Uganda was not alone in the DRC during the relevant period. The court itself acknowledged the presence of numerous other belligerents. Many will understandably ask; Why is Uganda alone that is being asked to pay for whatever supposedly went wrong during the conflict?”
In it’s 2005 judgement, court ordered that at the compensation phase, the DRC would be required to demonstrate and prove the exact injury that was suffered as a result of specific actions of Uganda constituting wrongful acts for which it is responsible.
“The DRC did not meet the burden the court placed on it…. It did not come forward with evidence of even a single specific injury suffered as a result of any actions of Uganda. It is therefore, deeply unclear why the ICJ decided to depart from the requirement it previously imposed on the DRC, let alone how it arrived at the figure of $325 million.” the statement adds.
The statement also notes that the decision comes at a time when the two countries of Uganda and Congo are continuing to strengthen their relations and when Uganda “is doing all in its means to assist, work with the government of DRC in different areas” to bring to an end to the problems that led to it’s army’s presence in the DRC.
Uganda says, the decision by the International court, is an “undue interference” in the ongoing process to improve relations between the two countries, including working with the DRC in areas of security, infrastructure, regional economic integration, etc.
“Uganda considers the judgement 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 longstanding dispute was first brought before the United Nations’ highest court in 1999, but after lengthy proceedings, the court ruled in 2005 that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of the eastern Congolese province with its own troops and supporting other armed groups during a war that raged from 1998 to 2003.
The court ordered the African neighbors to negotiate reparations, but in 2015 Congo returned to the tribunal, saying the talks had stalled. On Wednesday the court ruled on the final compensation amount.