Uganda has told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the billions of dollars in reparations sought by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the former’s role in the conflict in the latter’s Ituri province could ruin its economy.
The DRC’s “claims are dangerously disproportionate”, Uganda’s attorney general, William Byaruhanga, told the UN court on Thursday, adding that granting them would have “staggering economic consequences”.
On Monday, lawyers for the DRC had told the court they were seeking $4.3bn in reparations payments for the alleged victims of Uganda’s involvement in the 1998-2003 conflict in mineral-rich Ituri.
They also claimed a further $2.8bn for damages to wildlife, $5.7bn for macroeconomic damages and over $700m for loss of natural resources – bringing total reparation demands to over $13bn.
The DRC’s representative before the court, Paul-Crispin Kakhozi Bin-Bulongo, told the judges that the damage done to his country by Uganda during the conflict in Ituri was of “incommensurate magnitude” and said Uganda had not negotiated in good faith during reparations talks.
The long-running dispute over Uganda’s involvement in Ituri was first brought before the court in 1999. In 2005, the ICJ ruled that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of the eastern Congolese province with its own troops and supporting other armed groups in the area during the conflict.
It also ruled that the DRC had violated international law with an attack on the Ugandan embassy in Kinshasa.
The court ordered the neighbours to negotiate mutual reparations. In 2015, however, the DRC returned to the UN court saying the talks were not progressing.
After setting up a commission of experts to help it assess damage amounts, the court is holding hearings this week before it issues a decision on reparations.