- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

KINSHASA, Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo once estimated that it was owed $10 billion by Uganda for an invasion in the 1990s, but it says it is reassessing the figure now that the world court has ruled the incursion unlawful and, for the first time, ordered an African country to pay reparations.

Information Minister Henri Mova-Sakanyi said that before Monday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice, Congo had estimated damages from Uganda’s invasion at $10 billion.

“We are re-evaluating the damages,” he said, adding that he had no idea whether Kinshasa would seek more or less. He said re-evaluation is standard procedure before making a formal request at The Hague.

Mr. Mova-Sakanyi said compensation “could include money for projects to rebuild regions that Uganda invaded.”

Uganda’s army was among those of six neighboring nations involved in “Africa’s world war,” a conflict fueled by hunger for Congo’s mineral wealth that left nearly 4 million people dead. Most of the foreign fighters are gone, and the worst of the fighting ended in 2002, but Congo has been left in tatters.

Mr. Mova-Sakanyi said he expects Kinshasa’s reparations evaluation to be completed before the end of this week.

The court said it would determine the amount of reparations if the two sides cannot reach an agreement.

It has awarded reparations in previous cases, but court officials said they could not recall another case of damages involving African countries.

The court held Uganda responsible for killing, torture and cruel treatment of civilians in Congo and called the invasion an “unlawful military intervention.”

The court dismissed Uganda’s claims of self-defense and, in a 16-1 ruling, denounced the Ugandan military for deploying child soldiers and inciting ethnic conflict as it rampaged through Congo’s Ituri province from August 1998 to July 1999.

The government in Kinshasa first went to the United Nations’ court in 1999 to complain that Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda had illegally invaded its territory and sought an order demanding that their troops withdraw.

Fighting in eastern Congo raged for three more years, and the armies did not withdraw until June 2003, despite the court’s order in 2000 to halt operations and safeguard civilians.

Although Uganda was primarily responsible, all sides were to blame for “the immense suffering of the Congolese population,” the ruling said. “The court is painfully aware that many atrocities have been committed in the course of the conflict.”

A separate case brought by Congo against Rwanda is still pending at the world court. Congo withdrew its claims against Burundi after the two countries reached a settlement.

The court also ruled that Congo must compensate Uganda for the destruction of the Ugandan Embassy in Kinshasa and for the mistreatment of its diplomats.

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