Uganda could end up paying millions of dollars to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as compensation for the occupation of its territory during the 1997-2003 war if the Hague-based c decides to adopt compensation figures recommended by its experts.
Four ICJ-appointed experts have recommended that Uganda pays $215 million (about Shs 765 billion) for infrastructure and property damage, general looting and specifically looting of minerals.
The experts are Debarati Guha-Sapir, a professor of public health at the University of Louvain (Belgium), Michael Nest, the environmental governance advisor for the European Union’s Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption programme in Ghana, Geoffrey Senogles, a Partner at Senogles & Co., a Chartered Accountants firm in Switzerland and Henrik Urda, a research professor and director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway).
The damage compensation figures recommended by experts is classified as $15.9 million for infrastructure, $3.6 million for general looting, $24.8 million for property damage in Ituri and $16.6 million as property damage out of Ituri areas which were occupied by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). Another $56.9 million is classified as property of National Electricity Company and $41.6 million was property of Congolese army and $55.8 million is recommended as compensation for the looting of minerals.
Compensation for human lives lost
But what remains unclear is the compensation for human lives that were lost during the war. And this is potentially going to be an item with the highest figure. Guha-Sapir, who worked on the excess deaths report noted that DRC registered 4.9 million excess deaths from 1997 to 2003.
And specifically in areas which were occupied by Uganda soldiers, she reported 185,136 excess deaths, while Dr Henrik Urdal who submitted about war deaths only estimated that 28,981 deaths were directly as result of the war. According to his report, 14,663 were civilian deaths, 6,494 military deaths while 7,824 were unknown
The experts report was released on Monday following Uganda’s withdrawal of an objection to its release. At the start of the court oral hearing on April, 20, Uganda wrote objecting to making experts report public but on April 28, Attorney General William Byaruhanga who was in Hague withdrew the objection.
“I have the honour to further inform the court that Uganda hereby withdraws its objection and consent to the reports of the court appointed experts and related documents being made accessible to public,” Byaruhanga wrote.
During the two weeks of oral proceedings, lawyers representing Uganda fervently urged the court to reject expert reports that derived from estimates and globally reputable databases. Instead, Ugandan lawyers argued that Congo must produce compelling evidence such as death certificates if it’s to be compensated.
Sean Murphy, a professor of International Law at George Washington University, representing Uganda argued that DRC must produce evidence but also causation—showing that such deaths and destruction were as a result of activities of Ugandan soldiers.
“That assertion about the inability to gather evidence relating to war is demonstrably untrue. Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait did not prevent victims or their families from identifying to the UN compensation commission the names of those who died,” he said.
Countering Uganda, Phillipe Sande, a professor of Law and director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at the University College London, representing Congo told the court that Uganda’s approach if accepted will “lead to a great miscarriage of justice.” Uganda’s approach, he argued is ridiculous, disrespectful and offensive.
Debarati Guha-Sapir, also asked the court to ignore demands by Uganda that DRC must produce evidence like death certificates to prove that its citizens died when the UPDF was deployed in Ituri almost 23 years ago. She argued that institutions registering deaths were non-existent in Eastern DRC during the war and there were no incentives for people to obtain certificates for dead relatives.
After end of oral arguments, both countries anxiously be waiting for court judgement which will be delivered on notice. The ICJ 2005 reopened this case, which Uganda lost to Congo after the two countries failed to agree on the compensation figure.
At one point during negotiations, Byaruhanga told ICJ that DRC was claiming $23 billion in compensation which it has now reduced to $13.5 billion as per Byaruhanga’s presentation.