Last month, February 2018, the timeframe set by the Internal Court of Justice (ICJ) to receive the outcomes of the negotiations between the Ugandan and DRC governments regarding the $10 billion reparations that Uganda owes the DRC elapsed.
The $10 billion reparations that ICJ awarded to the DRC government was in respect of a dispute concerning acts of armed aggression apparently committed by Uganda on the territory of the DRC in 1998.
The DRC government instituted court proceedings against Uganda at the ICJ in June 1999 and the decision that Uganda pays the DRC $ 10 billion was reached in December 2005.
This is not the first time that Uganda and the DRC have failed to hold successful negotiations within the timeframe set by the ICJ. For record following the court decision and award of reparations in 2005, the ICJ gave the Uganda and DRC an opportunity to discuss how to settle the claims. Unfortunately, 10 years later, the two countries had failed to reach a mutual agreement.
The failure prompted the DRC government in July 2015 to file new application to the ICJ requesting court to order Uganda to pay the reparations. In December 2016, the court awarded both parties (Uganda and the DRC) more time for negotiations and fixed February 2018 for Uganda and DRC to submit the outcome of their negotiations. Once again, the negotiations were unsuccessful.
It should be noted that part of the evidence used by the ICJ to make her ruling in December 2005 was contained in the Justice David Porter Commission report, which report Uganda attached as evidence in court. The report confirmed the looting of DRCs natural resources and implicated some top Ugandan government and military officials.
The report confirmed that indeed Uganda engaged in military and paramilitary activities against the DRC by occupying their territory and actively extending military and committing acts of violence against nationals of the DRC.
In addition to killing, injuring and dispossessing them of their property, and by failing to take adequate measures to prevent violations of human rights in the DRC by persons under its control among others.
As a country, we must understand how we ended up in such a mess and how we can get out of it without turning our country into a failed state. Most of the implicated individuals in the Justice David Porter report are known, wealthy and still working in government.
If Uganda is compelled by court to pay the said reparations, as a country and particularly as citizens, paying these reparations will make Uganda poorer and a possible failed state based on our economy with current (GDP of $25.53 billion, 2016). Moreover, over the years Uganda has accumulated an external debt of over $8 billion (over 33% of the GDP).
In addition, it could damage the intergovernmental relations that the two countries have tried to build over the years. For instance if Uganda is compelled to pay the said monies and as a result, the Ugandan economy collapses, Ugandans would blame the DRC government for their misery.
In the same vein, if Uganda refuses to pay the $10 billion reparations, the government and citizens of the DRC would view Uganda with negativity. Furthermore, economists would urge that since the assessment was done in 2005 over 15 years have elapsed, this would attract interest hence limiting any possibilities of Uganda having the capacity to negotiate and pay them. Moreover, this huge debt will be transferred to the over 40 million citizens including Uganda's innocent and unborn children.
On worse case scenery, it could lead to conflict between Uganda and the DRC with the DRC retaliating against Uganda for looting their natural resources and the extrajudicial killings perpetrated against her citizens.
This could result into loss of life, property and would worsen the refugee crisis in the Great Lakes region. In addition, the potential conflict can destabilise the economies of both countries even further.
Therefore, the Ugandan president should open up the negotiations with the DRC government and consider an out of court settlement with respect to sustainability of both economies.
In addition, the president of Uganda should consider constituting a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of representatives from government, the parliament, the judiciary, religious leaders, civil society, cultural leaders and regional bodies to persuade the DRC government to accept feasible terms on the settlement including reducing the costs.
Finally, the findings of the Justice David Porter Commission report should be acted upon and implicated government and UPDF who engaged in wrongful acts in DRC should be prosecuted and demanded to pay the reparation.
By Samuel Okulony
Programmes and Research Coordinator
Africa Institute for Energy Governance