What we know about the condemnation of Uganda in the conflict which opposed it to the DRC 25 years ago

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on February 9, 2022. Kampala will have to pay 325 million dollars to Kinshasa in compensation for the violence perpetrated during the invasion of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by Ugandan troops during the Second World War. Congo (1998-2003).

Far from the 11 billion dollars requested

The ICJ, the highest court of the United Nations whose seat is in The Hague (Netherlands), ruled in 2005 that Uganda should pay reparations to its neighbour. But Uganda and the DRC had not reached an agreement, leaving the ICJ the choice to settle their dispute. Uganda had described as“exorbitant” and D’“extremely excessive” the demands of the DRC.

If Uganda was ordered to pay 325 million dollars to the DRC, it is far from the 11 billion requested by Kinshasa. The amount breaks down as follows: $225 million for loss of life, $40 million for damage to property and $60 million for damage to natural resources.

Not enough evidence, according to the Court

There will be no appeal against this decision of the ICJ, created in 1946 to settle disputes between States, the two parties having to follow its decisions. The Court, which however does not have the means to enforce its judgment, considered that Kinshasa had not provided sufficient evidence to “to support the claim that Uganda owes reparations for the deaths of 180,000 civilians”.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo had accused Uganda of acts of “barbarity” during hearings before the ICJ in April 2021, citing “a five-year occupation marked by very serious violations of human rights”.

The Congo Wars

The Second Congo War took place between 1998 and 2003. One of the deadliest conflicts in the world since the Second World War involved up to nine African countries, including Uganda and Rwanda which supported rebel forces in the east of the country, rich in minerals. And also about thirty armed groups. In fact, there was two successive wars that devastated eastern DRC between 1996 and 2003. Which caused several hundred thousand or even several million deaths, according to the sources.

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“For more than 25 years, the east of the DRC has proven to be the territory hardest hit by atrocities (…). Between wars, rapes and famines, the direct and indirect victims are countless”, indicated TV5monde at the end of 2021before adding:“In 2008, the International Rescue Committeean American non-governmental organization, draws a death toll of 5.4 million over the period 1997-2008″.

A worrying partnership

This decision by the ICJ comes as the Ugandan army has been back since the end of November 2021 in eastern Congo, in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, still plagued by armed violence. This time it is a partnership with Kinshasa for a joint offensive of the two armies against the Ugandan rebels of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), affiliated with the jihadist organization Islamic State. An operation that worries the population.

“We ask the president and all the security authorities to seriously control (…) these people, so that the mistakes of the past cannot return to our country.”

Lodha Losa, motorcycle taxi in Bunia, capital of Ituri

at AFP

Divided Congolese

After the decision of the ICJ, the feelings of the Congolese of Ituri, a province particularly bruised by the Ugandan invasion during the war, were divided. According to AFP, Me Christian Uteki, a lawyer in the region, thinks that “this condemnation goes in the direction of dissuasion of any State which would try to carry out military activities in another independent State without its agreement”. However, he believes that “the amount of 325 million is very minimal (in view of) all the damage perpetrated on Congolese territory” and in view of “destruction, of the human toll, of the ecological toll…” He asks the United Nations “to put pressure on Uganda to carry out this sentence” so that the money goes back to the victims.

It won’t be easy. The day after the judgment, the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which “regrets that this decision comes at a time when the two countries continue to strengthen their relationship,” considered “judgment as unjust and erroneous”.

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