Uganda has paid the Democratic Republic of Congo $65 million in reparations for the invasion and looting by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) that took place more than two decades ago. This was put to public by the DRC Justice Minister Rose Mutombo in an announcement made on Saturday.
The payment follows a decision made early this year in February in which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the Ugandan government to pay $225 million to DRC for loss of lives, $60 million for looting, plunder and exploitation of natural resources and $40 million for the destruction of property. The $225 million is also meant to compensate for atrocities such as rape, conscription of child soldiers and the displacement of up to 500,000 people.
The payments were to start in September this year and are set to run until 2026, with Kampala paying $65 million each year to Kinshasa, failure of which the instalment would accrue a six percent annual interest rate.
DRC government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said the reparations “are lodged in a transitory account of the Ministry of Justice in a local bank” as the government creates mechanisms to compensate the victims’ families.
Initially, the DRC had demanded $11 billion in reparations for the invasion by the Ugandan army during the Congo war between 1998 and 2003. The ICJ however settled on $225 million as the amount payable by Uganda.
The war in eastern, southern and northeastern Congo provinces involved the DRC army supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia against rebels backed by Ugandan and Rwandan militaries. In the course of the war, the Rwandan and Ugandan armies ended up fighting each other on Congolese soil, notably in Kisangani in the northeast in June 2000.
Uganda had protested the ICJ ruling terming it “unfair and wrong “despite the country moving towards paying the first installment on Saturday. This is a clear indication that Kampala has agreed to be bound by the decision of the ICJ and therefore looks to ameliorate its past dark history with Kinshasa.
In a case first brought against Uganda in 1999, DRC asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to compel Uganda to pay it $11bn as reparations for the deaths, looting and general economic damage caused by Uganda’s military occupation of parts of DRC in the 1990s.
After lengthy proceedings, the ICJ, United Nations’ highest court, ruled in 2005 that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of eastern DRC and supporting other armed groups during a conflict that raged from 1998 to 2003.
The court, which deals with disputes between states and whose rulings are final and cannot be appealed, ordered the two parties to negotiate reparations. In 2015, however, the DRC told the court that the talks had stalled.
Ugandan soldiers who had been fighting rebels in DRC for the previous three years crossed back into Uganda at the Mpondwe border point on October 15, 2001. During the military adventure, the Ugandan army and the rebels they backed are accused of plundering of gold, diamonds, timber and other goods belonging to DRC.