Politics and Society
Uganda begins reparation payments for the Second Congo war
Early this year, the International Court of Justice ordered Uganda to pay damages for property loss and harm to persons that included rape, conscription of child soldiers, and displacement during the 1998-2003 conflict. In its first instalment, Uganda has paid $65 million of the $325 million total.
The First Congo war was a foreign invasion of then Zaire by neighbouring countries that culminated in the replacement of Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko with rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila. It all started with the 1994 Rwandan genocide when an estimated two million refugees, mostly Hutu, poured over Rwanda’s western border into the Congo. The refugee camps that hosted them in Eastern Congo quickly turned into de facto army bases for the exiled Interahamwe and Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, or ALiR, genocidaires. The groups went on to terrorise the local population until 1996 when the Banyamulenge (literally ‘those who live in Mulenge’ describing a Tutsi community in the southern part of Kivu) led an uprising to force the Rwandans out of the Congo, thus sparking the war.
In retaliation, Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded the Congo in a combined effort called the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, or AFDL. Shortly after, they gained control of Eastern Congo and the following year, marched into Kinshasa, overthrew Mobutu’s government, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Once installed it was not long before Kabila turned on his allies (Rwanda and Uganda) and allowed Hutu armies to regroup in the East, prompting the two principles into launching a joint invasion. But other countries came to Kabila’s aid, fanning a five-year conflict between Congolese government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and soldiers and rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
The Second Congo War
The DRC is known for its mineral wealth, and the temptation to control it split the Rwanda and Uganda rebel movement. According to historical accounts, “Uganda backed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, as well as a break-off faction of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). The conflict descended into a stalemate, in which Kabila and his allies controlled the west and south of Congo, Rwanda, the RCD controlled the east, and Uganda and the MLC controlled the north. Local militia groups known as Mai-Mai fought the RCD and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in the east. The remnants of the Rwandan army and Hutu militias formed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which targeted forces on all sides, further complicating the situation and adding to the violence.”
Because of the military deadlock, the parties involved signed the Lusaka Peace Accord in 1999, and 5,000 U.N peacekeepers deployed to the region to monitor the situation.
In a stroke of fate, President Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001, and power passed to his son, Joseph Kabila. The event yielded positive results with Joseph Kabila proving to be an adept negotiator who successfully closed the 2002 peace deals that saw Rwanda and Uganda withdraw from the DRC. Later that year, he also parleyed an internal ceasefire with internal rebel groups by promising a power-sharing interim government.
Reparations for loss of life, displacement, and property damage
A compensation order has been issued, more than 15 years after the International Court of Justice ruled that Ugandan troops breached international law in the Second Congo war.
“The court notes that the reparation awarded to the DRC for damage to persons and to property reflects the harm suffered by individuals and communities as a result of Uganda’s breach of its international obligations,” the court’s president, US judge Joan E Donoghue, said in a public statement.
Uganda must pay the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) $325m in reparations. The amount is broken down into categories, the bulk of which are: $225m for “loss of life and other damage to persons” that included rape, conscription of child soldiers, and the displacement of up to 500,000 people, and $40m for property damage and $60m for damage to natural resources, including the plundering of gold, diamonds, timber, and other goods.
The $325m is way below the $11bn the DRC petitioned for because according to Judge Donoghue there was “insufficient evidence to support the DRC’s claim of 180,000 civilian deaths for which Uganda owes reparation”.
“The court considers that the evidence presented to it suggests that the number of deaths for which Uganda owes reparations falls in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 persons,” she added.
Congo’s government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya confirmed that the country received the first of five yearly instalments, $65 million.
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