The government said it disagrees with this week’s world court ruling that its military intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a violation of Congo’s sovereignty, but stressed it would respect the verdict of the United Nations’ highest tribunal.
Information Minister James Nsaba Buturo said Monday’s decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was flawed, because it ignored the threat posed to Uganda’s national security by armed groups in the northeastern Congolese province of Ituri, which prompted Kampala to send troops to the country in 1998.
“We respect the judgment, but that does not take away the facts of our conviction that we went to the DRC because our national security had been threatened,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“The ICJ did not appreciate that we were invaded and people were killed, and this is not the first case that a country has gone beyond its borders to quell terrorism,” Mr. Buturo said. “We are convinced that we had a strong case to make the decision we made.”
In addition, he said the ICJ had erred in finding Uganda guilty of “looting and plunder” in Congo from August 1998 to June 2003.
“The government never went to the DRC to plunder the resources there,” Mr. Buturo said. “It was never the policy of Uganda; it was the actions of individual officers, and if the court has evidence of this, it should go after those individual officers.”
On Monday, the court agreed with the complaint from Congo that Uganda violated its sovereignty, used illegal force and carried out human rights abuses and ruled that Kampala owed Kinshasa compensation.
Mr. Buturo would not speak directly to the reparations, but said the Congolese and Ugandan governments would “sit down and talk about this issue.”
A senior Ugandan Foreign Ministry official said Kampala expects to be able to negotiate the amount of compensation.
The government in Kinshasa filed its claim with the world court in June 1999, asking it to condemn Uganda for invading its territory, massacring civilians and plundering its natural resources, including diamonds and gold.
Uganda had told the court at hearings in April that it acted to protect its national security by fighting rebels who had settled on Congolese territory amid that country’s 1998-2003 civil war. The International Court of Justice said Monday, however, that Uganda’s military incursions could not be “justified as actions in self-defense.”
The tribunal is the United Nations’ highest court and rules on conflicts between states at their demand. A ruling by the court is final and without appeal, but the tribunal has no way to enforce its rulings.