Uganda To Pay $325M In Reparations To DR Congo

On Wednesday, 9 February 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Uganda to pay the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) $325 million as reparations over the five-year-long war which began in 1998. Uganda is ordered to pay the amount in five yearly instalments of $65 million; the payments are set to start in September this year. The compensation is divided into three categories of damage; $225 million is set for the loss of life and damage to individuals, $40 million is designated for damaged property, and $60 million is for damage to natural resources.

The court believes the reparations reflect the damage done to DRC’s North-eastern Ituri region. However, the reparation amount is far from the $11 billion DRC is requesting for the deaths and destructions of properties. DRC believes Uganda is responsible for the death of 180,000 civilians during what they describe as “wrongful international acts” when Uganda invaded the North-eastern Ituri region in 1998. However, due to the lack of evidence to support its claim, the court ruled Uganda to pay $325 million in reparations based on the U.N. figures and expert reports that show Uganda is only responsible for the deaths of approximately 10,000 to 15,000 civilians.

As a result, DRC is not particularly happy with the ruling. A Congolese jurist said, “the amount for which Uganda was condemned, $325 million, is a very small amount. This amount cannot cover the reparation as expected by the Congolese people.” Nevertheless, DRC stills see positivity in the court’s ruling. Christian Uteki, a Congolese jurist, said, “this condemnation goes in the direction of dissuading any other state that would try to carry out military activities on another independent state without its agreement.” Uganda is also unhappy with the court’s decision; it rejected the ruling describing it as unfair and wrong. Foreign Affairs Minister Okello Henry Oryem said the verdict “singled out Uganda” for punishment while overlooking the involvement of other countries armed forces in Ituri during the period. The minister also denied any wrongdoings from the army, stating that the military is a very disciplined force. The court’s decision failed to “understand or appreciate African matters and makes no contribution to current efforts at resolving on our own, the security issues that persist,” argued Oryem, who is also determined to resolve the dispute through engagement with the government of DRC.

The five-year-long war attracted nine African countries, with Uganda and Rwanda supporting rebel forces against the Congolese government to gain influence in the DRC’s mineral-rich Eastern region of Ituri. In 1999 DRC opened a case against Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, arguing that the involvement of the African countries in the Ituri region was an atrocious violation of the U.N. charter. However, in 2001 Congo dropped the case against Burundi, and in 2002, ICJ ruled that it lacked jurisdiction in the case against Rwanda. Later in 2005, the ICJ ordered Uganda to compensate DRC after ruling Uganda guilty of violating international law when it occupied parts of Ituri with its army and backed armed rebels against the Congolese government. But the two governments failed to agree on the amount of compensation. DRC is demanding $11bn, which Uganda describes as “disproportionate and economically ruinous” with the potential to ruin its economy.

Ultimately, DRC’s decision to take the matter to court demonstrates Africa’s capability to solve a dispute with its neighbours in a non-military fashion. Although the dispute has not been completely resolved, it serves as a building block to resolve conflict peacefully, which should encourage conflicting countries around the globe to do the same. The ruling by the ICJ should also be recognized as s a positive step forward in discouraging future military invasions in Africa. Those responsible for violating international laws must be held accountable for their actions.