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World Court Finds Uganda Guilty of Congo Invasion, Abuses

David Lewis

The World Court has found Uganda guilty of invading neighboring Congo during a 1998-2003 war and committing human-rights violations there. Congo's government says it will ask for billions in reparations and called the decision a warning to the country's other neighbors.

Six years after the Democratic Republic of Congo took neighboring Uganda to the World Court, the U.N.'s highest court found Kampala guilty of violating Kinshasa's sovereignty and committing human-rights abuses there.

Giving its verdict in the Hague, the World Court said Uganda was also responsible for plunder in the mineral-rich country. The five-year war was declared ended in 2003, but fighting and war-related hunger and disease has killed about four million people since 1998.

A landmass the size of Western Europe and wealthy in resources ranging from diamonds and copper in the south to timber and gold in the north, the Congo remains a chaotic and war-torn country.

Years of dictatorship under Mobutu Sese Seko were ended by Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels who marched across the country in 1997 and installed Laurent Kabila as president.

But the following year, divisions emerged. The Ugandans and Rwandans fell out with Mr. Kabila, backed separate rebel groups, and a war marked by plunder and massacres began.

A spokesman for the government in Kinshasa, now led by the late Mr. Kabila's son, Joseph, welcomed the courts decision, saying the law had finally prevailed.

He said that Congo would be seeking between $6 and $10 billion in compensation from Uganda.

He also said the verdict was a lesson to all of his country's hostile neighbors, notably Rwanda and Burundi, who also participated in Congo's war, which at its height involved six neighboring countries.

The decision comes a day after Congo held its first poll in more than 40 years. Voters across Congo cast ballots in a constitutional referendum, which, if approved, should decide how the country will be run and pave the way to elections in 2006.

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