Stealthily, government of Uganda has paid off its first $65 million tranche of reparation costs to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ensuing a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February this year.
The Hague-based court slammed Uganda with $325 million in reparations to be paid in 5 annual installments for damages, looting, plundering of resources, and killings caused by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) over twenty years ago.
DRC’s Justice Minister, Mutombo Kiese Rose told Ministers that Uganda had paid the first installment of reparations awarded in damages by the ICJ according to minutes of a cabinet meeting held on Friday 9th September.
This was confirmed by the DRC government spokesperson Mr. Patrick Muyaya who acknowledged that DRC had received the $65 million from the Ugandan government, the first of the five installment payments to be made. He explained that the reparations have been lodged in a transitory account of the DRC Ministry of Justice in a local bank as their government creates mechanisms to compensate the victims’ families.
Uganda’s Finance Ministry’s spokesperson, Apollo Munghinda also affirmed that Uganda had made the first installment payment on September 1st and moving forward would make sure not to default on payment.
However, for most Ugandans, government’s abidance to the ICJ judgement is rather startling following their initial position on the ruling. In a two-page statement early this year, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry rejected and challenged the judgement with claims that it was unfair and wrong. The Ministry also accused the ICJ of undue interference in African affairs. This was the last Ugandans heard from government on the matter.
What is really intriguing is how government concealed and paid the reparations in such a hush-hush manner. Government perhaps kept this payment under wraps because of fear of public uproar the matter would have raised following the displeasure and criticism they received from citizens after the reparations were slammed on Uganda in February this year.
Whereas SecretsKnown has been following this issue, government remained tight-lipped about the matter as they sourced the funds. The million-dollar question is “how was government able to pay the $65 million?” Given the country’s soaring debt and struggling nature of the economy, many economists were skeptical about how the self-proclaimed “middle-income nation” would make this payment but voilà, Uganda pulled it off.
Payment of these reparatory costs comes at a time when the Parish Development Model (PDM) a government multi-sectoral strategy for socio-economic transformation is struggling with funding. Several parishes have to date not received any money from the Ministry of Finance while others have received less funds.
Not only are civil servants experiencing delays in their salaries, construction of roads and other development projects has also stalled because government is cash strapped. Notably, also, government cannot even afford to introduce fuel subsidies to soothe the high commodity prices in the country. Is it a coincidence that these budget cuts are happening at the same time government just paid the DRC $65 million installment? Will the country have to face these economic difficulties for the next four years until the payment is done?
It is ridiculous that funds that would have catered for the shortages the economy is experiencing and improve service delivery have to be instead diverted to pay the DRC. Frustratingly the hungry, thieving military officers and cronies of the regime who invaded and plundered the Ituri region in DRC got away scot-free and have never been held accountable. All this is at the cost of taxpayers who have to pay the price for a few known individuals. Oh, Uganda!