Thought and Ideas
DRC vs Uganda at the International Court of Justice - Round Two
Posted Sunday, September 29 2013 at 01:00
The Daily Monitor of Tuesday, September 10, 2013 carried on page 8 a small news article which in my humble opinion should have been a major story on the front page of the newspaper because of its grave implications for the people of Uganda.
According to the article titled, DRC plunder case returns to haunt Uganda, Justice Julia Sebutinde of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) warned that a ruling made by the court in 2005 will most likely cost Uganda a whopping 10 billion US dollars because Uganda’s legal team had by mistake submitted to the court as evidence the Justice Porter report which did not absolve Uganda of serious charges of pillage of DRC’s natural resources.
The report, which was sanctioned by the government of Uganda to whitewash a damaging 2002 UN report, on the contrary, confirmed that some senior officials of the government of Uganda looted vast quantities of Congolese resources with impunity.
The names of the culprits were mentioned in the UN report although a few were later on deleted under pressure from a friendly big power.
Justice Sebutinde remarked that, “one undoing was the famous Justice Porter report which I understand Uganda attached as its evidence, yet Porter had found plunder had taken place”! What a tragedy. Was this a case of ignorance arising from the fact the legal team did not read or comprehend Justice Porter’s report? One wonders, but Justice Sebutinde has kindly given Uganda advance notice.
I would like to thank the distinguished judge for reminding the political elite of Uganda about a matter which they have most likely swept under the carpet, as is their custom; hoping against hope that the case will either disappear in thin air or that other parties to the dispute will hopefully forget about it. Well, it looks as if the ruling elite of Uganda will soon be back at the ICJ with sacks of dollars to compensate the DRC.
I am sure they would prefer payment in Uganda Shillings; they could easily mobilise trillions of shillings at short notice, but how did Uganda get into this shameful mess which has ruined the image of our country in the first place?
In 1998 a large contingent of UPDF troops launched an invasion of DRC without the approval of the Parliament of Uganda which is the only organ with powers under Uganda’s constitution to declare war on and deploy Ugandan troops to a foreign country. When the media published stories about the illegal invasion of DRC by Ugandan troops that year, the government of Uganda initially denied the reports.
I recall during the UN General Assembly of 1998, our delegation was attacked by the Foreign Minister of the DRC at the plenary session of assembly and it was none other than yours truly who was assigned by the head of Uganda’s delegation to defend Uganda’s honour and integrity as well as rebut the “vicious and unfounded allegations” made by the Congolese minister which temporarily silenced the DRC delegation. Well, such is the extent to which a diplomat is obliged to diligently serve his country.
The government eventually admitted that Ugandan soldiers were indeed involved in an operation in eastern DRC, as far as Kisangani. Our troops remained there until 2002 and the rest is history, except that this matter of the plunder of the resources of the DRC has refused to go away.
Unlike Rwanda whose troops passed their loot to the Treasury of their country, the Congolese resources plundered by Ugandan soldiers were pocketed by a few individuals who are named in the damaging UN report on the subject. The items looted included, inter alia, gold, coltan, diamonds, timber and some Congolese women!
When DRC took the matter to the ICJ, Uganda engaged the eminent British legal scholar, Prof Ian Brownile and the former UN legal Counsel, Erik Suy of Belgium to defend her at a cost of more than a million dollars; Uganda lost the case at the end of the trial and was ordered to compensate DRC to the tune of $10 billion, but the two neighboring countries were granted the option of settling the matter out of court on mutually acceptable terms which has not yet happened and hence the possibility that the case may soon find its way back to the ICJ for final adjudication.
Why should Ugandan taxpayers compensate DRC for crimes committed by a few well known thieves who have plundered Uganda’s resources with impunity for decades? Why should the ICJ rub salt and pepper in our painful collective wound? It is offensive and unacceptable.
Since the culprits have been mentioned by the United Nations, I put it to the UN Secretary General that he should hold those individuals personally and collectively liable for the plunder of the resources of the DRC and not the entire population of Uganda.
I appeal to patriotic Ugandan lawyers to petition the ICJ urgently on behalf of the silent and oppressed majority of Ugandans who do not deserve to be penalised for crimes committed by a small clique of lawless men. May the Lord have mercy!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat.