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SOS Rhino : In the News : DR Congo versus Uganda case opens before UN's highest court

DR Congo versus Uganda case opens before UN's highest court

United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo


THE HAGUE, April 11 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday accused Uganda of "massacring Congolese nationals" in an opening statement in its case against Kampala before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN's highest court.

The DRC accuses Uganda of invading its territory and massacring civilians.

The Congolese say Uganda violated its territorial sovereignty and international humanitarian law.

In its 1999 application the DRC said it seeks "to secure the cessation of the acts of aggression directed against it" and asked for reparations for destruction and looting allegedly carried out by Ugandan troops on its soil.

Outlining the position of the DRC in the proceeding the Congolese ambassador to the Netherlands Jacques Masangu-a-Mwanza said his country would "stress the urgency of stopping the massacring of Congolese civilians by Ugandan troops".

Even though the Ugandan troops have officially left the RCD the Congolese representative told the court they remain on Congolese territory " through different militias that operate under false pretence".

According to Masangu-a-Mwanza Uganda left behind "a large network of war lords which it supplies with arms so they can continue to pillage the DRC's riches".

The DRC argued that the presence of Ugandan forces constitutes a threat to endangered species in the DRC such as the gorilla and the white rhinoceros.

Uganda has consistently denied the claims and said it has only acted to protect national security.

The Congolese delegation on Monday rejected Uganda's explanation.

Uganda "continuously minimizes and even denies" the facts, DRC lawyer Tshibangu Kalala told the court.

Kalala said Kampala repeatedly said its actions were meant to "secure" Ugandan borders.

"This country has mastered the art of euphemism," the lawyer remarked.

Congo will plead its case until Wednesday and on Friday Uganda will present its side if the story.

In the course of the two last wars in the DRC --in 1996-1997 and 1998-2003-- both Uganda and Rwanda sponsored armed guerrilla movements fighting against the regime in Kinshasa.

In June 2000 the court issued so-called provisional measures at the DRC's request, ordering that both parties "forthwith, prevent and refrain from any action, in particular armed action" that might aggravate the dispute before the court.

Originally the court was set to start hearings in November 2003 in the case but the start was delayed at the request of both parties to allow diplomatic negotiations.

In 2003 the DRC was in a transitional period after a series of peace accords put an end to a five-year war (1998-2003) on its soil that involved at least half a dozen neighbouring countries and left some 3 million people dead either directly from the fighting or indirectly from related famine and diseases.

The peace process in the region remains very fragile mostly because of ongoing armed conflicts in the east of the DRC, the region bordering on Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

In the last few months there has been some diplomatic rapprochement between the DRC, the largest country in central Africa with very rich natural resources, and Uganda and Burundi. Kinshasa and Bujumbura announced in February that they would renew their diplomatic ties and in the same month the DRC and Uganda vowed to work together on the security of their common borders.

The ICJ is the United Nations' highest court, mandated to try disputes between states. It can take years before the court reaches a final verdict in a case and when it does the co

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