The ICC-inspired arrest of Mr Bemba on charges of war crimes in Central African Republic, will almost certainly lead to his and President Museveni’s roles in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Why? A report compiled by the United Nations, no less, implicitly states that Uganda actively supplied Mr Bemba with arms, money and logistics during the 1998-2002 war in the DR Congo.
In his October 15, 2002 letter, addressed to the UN Security Council, the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “I have the honour to transmit to you the final report of the Panel, which was submitted to me by its Chairman, Mr Mahmoud Kassem. This independent report comprises an evaluation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)”.
In paragraph 97, the report states, “The objective of the elite network in the areas controlled by Uganda has been to exercise monopolistic control over the area’s principal natural resources, cross-border trade, and tax revenues for the purpose of enriching members of the network.”
Paragraph 98 states, “The elite network operating out of Uganda is decentralised and hierarchical, consisting of high-ranking UPDF officers, private businessmen and selected rebel leaders/administrators. UPDF Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Salim Saleh and Maj. Gen. James Kazini are the key figures.
Other members include the Chief of Military Intelligence, Col. Noble Mayombo, Col. Kahinda Otafiire and Col. Peter Karim.”
Paragraph 102 states “In anticipation of the withdrawal by the UPDF, a paramilitary force is being trained under the personal authority of Lt. Gen. Saleh which, is expected to continue to facilitate the commercial activities of UPDF officers after UPDF have departed.
This military group draws on dissidents from Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC. It has been reported that Lt. Gen. Saleh discreetly provides financial support for this new rebel group”.
Based on this report, on December 19, 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) convicted and ordered Uganda to pay between $6-10 billion in compensation for “war crimes, crimes against humanity and illegal exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources”.
On March 23, 2006, Mr Thomas Lubanga, the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which the UN says was also supported by Uganda, was arrested and charged with war crimes, mass murder, rape, conscripting children under 15, and forcing them to participate in war”.
And in a self-incriminating move, on September 14, 2003, “State attorney Deus Byamugisha signed the consent judgement on behalf of Uganda government, agreeing to pay $226,958 to Silver Springs Hotel for the outstanding cost of hotel accommodation, booked by the President’s Office, for a number of guests linked to DRC rebels.” (“Govt. to pay 400m/- Congo debt”, New Vision, Sept. 15, 2003).
Given this evidence linking Mr Bemba and other Congolese rebels to the Uganda government, isn’t it high time the ICC issued arrest warrants for Ugandans officials who financed and benefited from war crimes, crimes against humanity and the illegal exploitation the DRC’s natural resources? Even the New Vision has complained, “Bemba’s arrest is also likely to be seen as selective justice.