The UN’s highest court ruled on Monday that Uganda violated the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo by sending armed troops into the country.
The court said that Uganda was responsible for acts of plunder in Congo by failing to ensure that its soldiers respected the country’s natural resources.
The Congo – rich in gold, diamonds and timber – was the battleground for rebels, local factions, tribes and neighbouring countries, including Uganda, in a 1998-2003 war in which four million people died, mainly from hunger and disease.
Congo took Uganda to the World Court in 1999, accusing it of responsibility for human rights abuses and armed aggression and calling for compensation for what it said were acts of looting, destruction and removal of property.
Henri Mova Sakanyi, a spokesman for the government of Congo, welcomed the ruling.
“We are very happy that international law has finally listened to our case,” he said, adding that Kinshasa would seek $6-10 billion in compensation from Uganda.
“We are very happy that international law has finally listened to our case”
Henri Mova Sakanyi,
Under court rules, state parties have a chance to negotiate compensation between themselves, but judges noted that the amount sought by Congo was appropriate.
Shi Jiuyong, the ICJ president, told the court that Ugandan troops “created an atmosphere of terror pervading the life of the Congolese people”.
The ICJ is the UN’s highest court, and its ruling is final. It was inaugurated in 1946 to resolve disputes between states.
Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo after rebel factions backed by them took up arms in 1998 to topple Laurent Kabila, who was then president and supported by Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe.
A ceasefire was negotiated in 1999, and Ugandan troops finally pulled out in 2002.