UN report links Uganda to war crimes in Congo

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Vigilantes during a training session in Bangadi, northeastern Congo. The leaked UN report linked Rwanda and Uganda to war crimes in Congo. File Photo

Vigilantes during a training session in Bangadi, northeastern Congo. The leaked UN report linked Rwanda and Uganda to war crimes in Congo. File Photo 

By Kevin Kelly

Posted  Monday, September 13   2010 at  17:47

A United Nations draft report documenting alleged Rwandan atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo also implicates Ugandan forces in civilian massacres and rapes, as well as in the training of child soldiers.

International media reports on the leaked UN “mapping exercise” covering the 1993-2003 period have focused on Rwanda’s role in the DRC, especially the suggestion that Rwandan forces may have carried out genocide against Hutu refugees.

The government of President Paul Kagame has reacted with outrage to the charges. Rwanda has threatened to withdraw its troops from UN peacekeeping missions if the most damning accusations are retained in the official version of the report, which is now scheduled to be issued on October 1.

The nearly 600-page draft version, a copy of which was obtained by The EastAfrican, also suggests that the Ugandan People’s Defence Force may have carried out war crimes in the DRC.

That possibility is raised in the context of the heavy fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan forces that erupted around Kisangani in 1999. The erstwhile allies were battling mainly for control of the area’s diamond riches.

“Some of the acts committed by the two belligerents could constitute violations of international humanitarian law, in particular the obligation to respect the principle of distinguishing between civilians and combatants and between civilian property and military targets,, and could thus be classified as war crimes,” the draft UN report says.

It notes that the UPDF did make some effort to limit the loss of civilian lives in these shelling exchanges.

But the report goes on to cite a decision by the International Court of Justice that there was “credible evidence sufficient to conclude that the UPDF troops failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets and to protect the civilian population in fighting with other combatants.”

At that time, the UN Security Council also denounced Uganda’s actions. The council issued a statement in 2000 “deploring the loss of civilian lives, the threat to the civilian population and the damage to property inflicted by the forces of Uganda and Rwanda on the Congolese population.”

The leaked UN report says as many as 800 Congolese may have been killed in the course of the fighting between the Ugandan and Rwandan army.

And “once the hostilities were over,” the report adds, “Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers pillaged several places in Kisangani.” Elements of both armies committed rapes, the draft says.

Uganda is also said to have played at least an indirect role in the slaughters of Rwandan Hutu civilians who fled to Congo after Tutsi forces under Kagame’s command put an end to the 1994 genocide carried out by Hutu inside Rwanda.

The report says that Uganda as well as Rwanda and Burundi supplied troops, arms and logistical capabilities to a rebel force in the DRC operating under the French acronym AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire).

During the 1996-1998 period, the AFDL carried out mass killings of Hutu refugees as well as members of both the Hutu-controlled former Rwandan army and militias involved in the 1994 genocide.

Uganda and Rwanda also played key roles in clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in the Ituri region of the DRC that resulted in “tens of thousands of deaths,” the report adds.

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