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116-Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (DRC vs Uganda)

On June 23rd, 1999, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) filed an application instituting proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Uganda. It asserted that acts of aggression had been committed on its territory, which if true, would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter as well as the Charter of the Organisation for the African Unity. The Congo sought not only an immediate cessation of the alleged acts, the violation of both human rights and sovereignty of the Congo over its territory, but also compensation for the prejudice and the return of properties looted from the country for the benefit of Uganda.

The DRC founded the jurisdiction of the Court on the various declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ made by the two States. On July 1st, 2000, it issued an order requiring both parties to prevent and refrain from any armed action that might infringe on the rights of the other party or aggravate the dispute, take all the necessary measures to comply with their obligations under international law, as well as to ensure full respect of fundamental human rights and applicable provision of humanitarian law.

Order of 01-07-2000.pdf

Subsequently, Uganda filed three counterclaims. In its order of November 29th, 2001, the ICJ ruled that two out of the three were admissible. They were in relation to:

  • The Congo’s alleged acts of aggression;
  • The attacks the embassy of Uganda, some of its diplomatic personnel and some Ugandan nationals living in Kinshasa, all of which attributable to the Congolese government according to the filings.

Hence, these claims became part of the proceedings.

Order of 29-11-2001.pdf

The Court handed down its judgment on the merits of the case on December 19th,2005, and ruled that:

  • The presence of Ugandan troops on the Congolese territory from August 1998 had not been authorised by the authorities of Kinshasa;
  • Uganda’s self-defense argument could not succeed in so far as none of the prerequisite necessary for self-defense were met in this case. The Court took particularly  into account the lack of proportionality, the magnitude and duration of the attacks to decide that point. In view of all of the above, the ICJ concluded that the Ugandan military presence and interventions on the Congolese territory were a violation of the UN Charter;
  • The support given by Uganda to the irregular forces operating in the DRC constituted a violation of the principles of non-intervention and non-use of force in international relations;
  • Regarding the allegations of possible violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the ICJ found that there were sufficient evidence to conclude that the troops of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF)  had violated the internationally recognised standards and that these violations could be attributable to Uganda;
  • The same was true of the exploitation and looting of the natural resources of the Congo by high-ranking members of the Ugandan army and the UPDF forces. However, there was nothing in the documents submitted to the Court that could support the idea that these acts were part of a larger governmental plan adopted by Uganda;

With regards to the Ugandan counterclaims:

  • The ICJ completely rejected the first one, ruling that there was not enough evidence that the DRC had given any support to the anti-Ugandan rebel groups operating in the Congo;
  • The court partially upheld the second one and decided that there had been attacks on the Ugandan embassy and that diplomatic staff had been mistreated at the Ndjili airport. Therefore, the DRC failed to meet its international obligations in particular with regards to the Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It concluded its judgment by deciding that the nature, form and amount of the compensation that each party owed to the other had to be settled between them and would only be submitted to the Court if they could not reach an agreement.

Judgment of 19-12-2005.pdf

Bilateral negotiations were initiated by the parties in order to reach an agreement on the issue of reparations. However, in 2015 believing that both country had reached an impasse, the DRC asked the Court to rule on this matter. Despite the objections raised by Uganda, the Court decided to oblige and set hearings to be held from April 20th to April 30th, 2021.

 The Court delivered its judgment on February 9th, 2022 and concluded that a distinction had to be made between Ituri then under Ugandan control and the rest of the Congolese territory. It therefore ruled that:

  • With regard to damage to persons: the Court awards a total of US$225 million for all damage suffered over the period in question; 
  • With regard to damage to property: the Court awards a total of US$40 million for all damage suffered during the period in questio
  • With regard to damage to natural resources: the Court awards a total of US$60 million for all damage suffered over the period in question;
  • With regard to the macroeconomic damage suffered by the country’s economy: the Court rejects this claim;
  • With regard to the requests for satisfaction raised by the DRC: the Court invites the parties to cooperate in good faith to promote reconciliation between the different ethnic groups in Ituri;
  • Uganda will have to pay US$65 million between September 2022 and September 2026. In the event of late payment, default interest will be due up to 6% per annum on any amount remaining due.
  • Each party shall bear its procedural costs.

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.