The media recently reported that Lubaga South MP John-Ken Lukyamuzi was demanding to know who was behind the looting of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
His request arose from earlier media reports that the DRC was demanding more than the $10 billion in reparations that are due to them from Uganda. The money arose out of the ruling of December 19, 2005, in which the International Court of Justice awarded DRC $10 billion in reparations against Uganda for looting and plundering DRC’s natural resources as well as human rights violations.
Upon delivering the judgement, the ICJ gave both governments a chance to negotiate how to handle the question of reparations. Unfortunately, for 11 years, the two countries have failed to reach a mutual agreement. It is the disagreement that made it necessary for DRC to file a new application with the ICJ, set to be heard on January 6, 2016.
By law, Uganda has a duty to pay the reparations. But as a country and particularly as citizens, we must discuss how we ended up in this mess, who is responsible for it and how we can get out of it without turning our country into a failed state, a situation Lukyamuzi alludes to when he says Uganda could be “mortgaged” to pay DRC’s reparations.
How did Uganda end up here? It was not out of a joint Ugandan decision because it was never a government policy for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces to invade DRC and engage in plundering of natural resources in addition to perpetrating human rights violations. Whoever engaged in such acts did it as an individual and must personally be held accountable.
Government should implement the Justice David Porter commission report’s recommendations with a view of prosecuting the individual UPDF officers who engaged in wrongful acts. These were involved in killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the civilian population, and they destroyed villages and civilian buildings.
They also failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets and to protect the civilian population in fighting with other combatants; they incited ethnic conflict and took no steps to put an end to such conflicts; they were involved in the training of child soldiers, and failed to take measures to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in DRC.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) should also pursue and prosecute the individuals implicated by the Porter report. Evidence of individual UPDF officers who carried out the wrongful acts in DRC is available in this report.
How should we get out of this mess? Government needs to initiate new negotiations with the Joseph Kabila government to consider withdrawing DRC’s new application to the ICJ.
Then it can urgently constitute a multi-stakeholder group comprised of eminent persons from, among others, the executive, parliament, judiciary, religious leaders, civil society, cultural leaders and regional bodies to convince the DRC of Uganda’s commitment to settle the reparations through negotiation and consensus.
This should be done under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)’s peace, security and cooperation framework agreement of September 2013.
Neither Uganda nor the individuals implicated by the Justice Porter report can afford to pay DRC yet the reparations question needs to be settled once and for all. The international community should support Uganda to maintain peace in the region.
But again, it needs to be emphasized that the individuals implicated by the Justice Porter commission’s report need to be prosecuted. We cannot let impunity thrive at other people’s cost.
The author is the chief executive officer of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego).