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Kampala pays war reparations to Kinshasa

In his eagerness to woo Tshisekedi, Museveni makes a down payment on disputed debt

Uganda's move to pay the first US$65 million installment towards its $325m reparations bill to Congo-Kinshasa, despite describing the Netherlands-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision to award the monies as 'unfair and wrong', is the latest sign of diplomatic rapprochement between Kampala and Kinshasa.

It stands in sharp contrast to the continuing uneasy relations that both Congo-K and Uganda have with Rwanda, whose military has also been accused of pillaging the mineral wealth of eastern Congo.

After finding the Ugandan army guilty of war crimes in 2005, it took until February for the ICJ to order Uganda to pay $225m for loss of lives, $60m for looting, plunder and exploitation of natural resources and $40m for property damage related to actions by the Ugandan army during the Congo war between 1998 and 2003.

But compared with the $11 billion demanded by Congo-K, it is a relatively small sum (Dispatches 18/5/21, Kampala takes on another military mission which could cool bilateral tensions over gold-looting in Ituri province).

The ICJ's president Joan Donaghue had ruled that the reparations were compensatory and not meant to be punitive. The payment and its receipt was confirmed by treasury officials in Kampala and Kinshasa on Monday (12 September).

Relations between the two countries have improved since Félix Tshisekedi took over the presidency in Congo-K in January 2019, launching the joint Operation Shujaa late last year against the Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces rebels who have been blamed for thousands of killings in the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo-K and recent bomb attacks in Uganda. However, Tshisekedi's decision to allow Ugandan forces onto Congolese soil has caused disquiet among some senior officers in the Congo-K army (AC Vol 62 No 24, Kampala bombings linked to Islamic State).

Kampala and Kinshasa also agreed a $330m deal to rebuild and develop the road network in the Kivus and links the two countries (AC Vol 63 No 10, Kenya sponsors risky anti-militia plan).

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