25 March 2005

Central Africa: DR Congo, Uganda Hearing Starts April 11

Kampala — Hearing of the case filed by the Democratic Republic of Congo against Uganda starts in three weeks time.

A delegation from the Ministry of Justice is preparing to travel to The Hague, Netherlands, to defend Uganda in a case where Kinshasa accuses Kampala of illegal invasion and looting of its minerals. Hearing is set to commence on April 11 and end on April 27.

The Solicitor General, Mr Lucien Tibaruha, on Wednesday confirmed preparations but declined to give details of the government's strategy.

"You have to wait until the delegation is back from The Hague and you will be given the information," Tibaruha said.

The case resumed in December, 2004 following a collapse in diplomatic negotiations between Kampala and Kinshasa.

Diplomatic efforts failed especially after the deaths of the then Attorney General, Francis Ayume and Minister for Foreign Affairs, James Wapakhabulo.

The DR Congo government, then led by the late Laurent Kabila, lodged the complaint in 1999 after Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the eastern part of the country in 1998 in support of anti-Kinshasa rebels.

The DR Congo complained of invasion and military occupation of its territory, destruction of public and private property, violation of human rights and looting of its natural resources. It alleged that Ugandan forces massacred civilians in Kisangani.

It also alleged that the Ugandan forces shot down a Congolese Boeing 727, killing 40 civilians at Kindu on October 9. Uganda had counter-sued, claiming Shs12 billion (euros5.2 million) in damages for looting its embassy in Kinshasa in 1998.

In spite of the case, the two countries last year signed a bilateral peace agreement.

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