SEPTEMBER 23, 2010: UN report jeopardises Uganda commitment to peace missions

UN report jeopardises Uganda commitment to peace missions

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

By Ben Simon

Uganda, mainstay of an international peacekeeping force in Somalia, has threatened to review its deployment to peace missions in an angry response to a UN report implicating its army in war crimes in DR Congo.

In a response seen by AFP Thursday to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the draft report, Uganda said the document was "a compendium of rumours, deeply flawed in methodology, sourcing and standard of proof."

Uganda leads an African Union force in Somalia where it has some 4,300 men and much smaller numbers of military and police personnel in south Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast and East Timor.

"Such sinister tactics undermine Uganda's resolve to continue contributing to, and participating in, various regional and international peacekeeping operations," said Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa in the letter.

Kutesa said Uganda "rejects the draft report in its entirety and demands that it not be published."

Justinian Kateera, a diplomat at the Ugandan mission to the UN in Geneva, told AFP that "the entire exercise has been shrouded in secrecy and lacking in transparency."

The report, expected to be published Friday, is based on data collected by UN investigators from July 2008 to June 2009 and aims to expose "crimes never previously documented" during a decade of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Its publication was delayed to give the states concerned time to comment.

The draft report into the 1993-2003 conflicts details several incidents where Ugandan forces (UPDF) are accused of atrocities such as the massacre of civilians, torture and destroying infrastructure that led to civilian deaths.

Ugandan and Rwandan troops as well as Rwanda's Congolese allies are accused of having shut down the turbines of the huge Inga dam for three weeks, causing the deaths of an unknown number of patients at a local hospital when the power went off.

The document also accuses the UPDF of establishing a "reign of terror for several weeks with complete impunity" in a Congolese town.

"They carried out summary executions of civilians, arbitrarily detained large numbers of people and subjected them to torture and various other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments," said the report.

Ugandan forces backed the Congolese rebels who toppled the then president Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 and occupied various parts of eastern DR Congo until 2003.

In a 2005 ruling the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Uganda had violated human rights law and humanitarian law during its occupation of parts of DR Congo.

The ICJ ordered Uganda to pay reparations to Kinshasa, but Kampala has yet to comply.

Rwanda has also said the UN draft report would have an impact on its participation in peacekeeping. But it later backed down on a threat to withdraw forces from Darfur after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Kigali for talks with President Paul Kagame earlier this month.

A spokesman for Ban on Sunday said the UN chief voiced satisfaction "to learn that Rwanda would continue its important role in peacekeeping, especially in Darfur."

In Geneva, Ugandan diplomat Kateera told AFP on Thursday that members of the team that carried out the probe "are unknown" and "the mystery surrounding their identities, backgrounds and views are a source of speculation."

"The flaws are sufficiently serious to reverse efforts aimed at consolidating peace, security and cooperation in the Great Lakes region," said the envoy.

Authorities in Burundi have also demanded the removal of the country's previous army and an ex-rebel group from the report that accused them of war crimes in the vast central African nation.

Angola, Chad and Zimbabwe were also militarily involved in the DR Congo violence.

The report said "the systematic and widespread attacks described in this report reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide."

URL Address: