Martin Luther King Jr. said that a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programmes of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. IPC role and engagement in the Great Lakes region will be informed by this wisdom because for the last two decades, Uganda has spent huge amounts of money fighting enemy after enemy and often antagonising sister countries in the region.
In 1998, Uganda unconstitutionally plunged into DR Congo purportedly to ‘intervene’ in the then raging conflict that ensued there. After this war, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Uganda had violated the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo, plundered its natural resources and was responsible for human rights abuses when it sent its troops there. It found that by engaging in military activities against the DRC on the latter’s territory, by occupying Ituri and by actively extending support to irregular forces in the DRC, Uganda violated the principle of non-use of force in international relations and the principle of non-intervention. Uganda is expected to pay $ 6-10 billion in reparations.
When elected into power IPC will have to apologise and negotiate with DR Congo so that this heavy fine that threatens to enslave our children and grand children can be forgiven. While in the Congo still, Uganda again locked horns with Rwanda – a conflict that has since left a sour taste in the relationship between the two countries. IPC recognises that while there is the seeming pretence that the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda is harmonious, there is suppressed frustration that needs to be dealt with through dialogue to restore the good relationship.
There have been incidences of bad blood with Kenya, as a result of the perception that Uganda had a hand in the killings of the 2007 Kenyan post-election period. The bad relations also surfaced when both countries claimed Migingo Island. Again, there is a false quietness about Migingo.
IPC government is committed to an everlasting solution by establishing and putting to public where this island belongs. IPC recognises that the people of Southern Sudan have for long suffered, and that Ugandans have made great sacrifices to ensure that they come out of the deplorable life they have been subjected to and enjoy a dignified life. Right now, some people would solely want to take credit for the sacrifices Ugandans have made by creating the impression that without them, there would be no support from Uganda. IPC government will continue harnessing the harmonious relationship by giving the necessary constitutional support to the people of Southern Sudan.
In addition, IPC government will engage in peace talks with the people of this region to put down the bad feelings resulting from the alleged UPDF looting of timber in Congo and southern Sudan. In 2007, the Ugandan army was accused of illegally logging valuable timber from Southern Sudan and taking it back to Uganda. The allegations were in a detailed report by the independent Swiss-based research group, Small Arms Survey. It said Ugandan soldiers had been clearing teak forests in Southern Sudan.
Uganda is currently engaged in a vital role in Somalia –a noble assignment by the African Union. IPC will seek the involvement of other African countries.
On the whole IPC relations will be guided by the policy of non-interference and respect of sovereignty of neighbouring states.
Ms Margaret Wokuri, director for communication and publicity at the IPC campaign bureau wrote this article in consultation with her organisation’s leadership