Uganda has rejected a ruling from the U.N.'s International Court of Justice ordering it to pay war reparations to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Analysts say Uganda could have avoided the $325 million fine if it had agreed to mediation.
In a statement, Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs described the the ICJ ruling as unfair and wrong.
On Wednesday, the U.N. court ordered that Uganda pay $325 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo as reparations for damages to people, property and resources inflicted during Uganda's invasion of the DRC’s Ituri province in the late 1990s, during the Second Congo War.
Foreign Affairs Minister Okello Henry Oryem said the judgement singled out Uganda for punishment, ignoring the presence of other countries’ armed forces in Ituri during the period.
He also denied the Ugandan army committed abuses in Ituri, saying the army is a very disciplined force.
“The judgement of 2005 gave the DRC the burden of proof of the number of people they claimed were killed, the number of properties they claimed were destroyed. By the time this judgement was made yesterday, the DRC had not proved those issues that were raised,” Oryem said.
VOA reached out to the DRC’s information minister for comment on the ruling but the ministry said he did not have time to talk.
The ICJ ruling calls for Uganda to make annual payments of $65 million beginning this September, continuing until 2026.
But Uganda’s Oryem says paying the money is not really the issue.
“The fact that we might be able to resolve this matter diplomatically which might not require paying any money. And if there’s another possible legal option, it won’t take money,” he said.
The DRC has pursued reparations for the invasion for decades. In 2002, officials from Congo and Uganda met in Gambia trying to negotiate some of the issues.
The DRC filed its first case with the International Court of Justice in 2005, and the court ordered Uganda to pay 11 billion dollars.
Uganda refused and the countries resumed negotiations. However, security analyst Dismas Nkunda who attended the meeting, says Uganda failed to sign.
“They are lucky that the amount has been reduced. They are lucky that they have been given installments. This is a matter of the Ministry of Justice and the attorney general’s office to have dealt with in the beginning. It wouldn’t have come to this,” Nkunda said.
Uganda says it will continue to constructively engage with the DRC on the matter.