United States President Barack Obama has been urged to hold Uganda and Rwanda accountable for their direct actions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in which at least 45,000 people are said to be dying every month due to the conflict in which both countries are involved.

In a letter to US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States city of Berkeley in California says that, for the last 13 years, nearly six million men, women and children have died in the DRC and hundreds of thousands more have been victims of the conflict in which the armies of Uganda and Rwanda have taken part.

The Berkeley City letter said the conflict has resulted in unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity and threaten the peace, security and well-being of Congo and its people.

It added: "Those responsible for such crimes have largely gone unpunished."

The letter which was also copied to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon went on to say that it was gravely concerned for the people of the DRC. It urged the US administration not to use US military forces in the DRC and that it should make it a priority to support local Congolese institutions with a proven record of delivering services to the people.

It also urged the United States to play a key role in the DRC and the Great Lakes region by relieving the tremendous suffering of the region's men, women and children.

Berkeley city also wants the Obama Administration to hold US corporations accountable for their actions in the DRC.

Several US companies are involved in the buying of various kinds of DRC precious stones mostly sold by warring military factions who in turn use the hard currency gained from the sale of such stones to buy military equipment such as guns, ammunition, grenades and bombs that prolongs the DRC conflict.

It therefore directed Berkeley City Clerk to send the letter to Mrs Clinton, US Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Berkeley also called for an end to the wrongful exploitation of the Congolese people's resources, saying that these should not be a curse but rather a blessing to the Congolese people.

In what has become known as a landmark ruling in 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), seating at its Peace Palace headquarters in the Hague, ruled that there was ‘credible evidence' sufficient to conclude that the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), in the course of their military intervention into the DRC, committed acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the civilian population.

The Court concluded that Uganda had violated the sovereignty and also the territorial integrity of the DRC and that its actions constituted interference in the internal affairs of the DRC and in the civil war raging there. "The unlawful military intervention by Uganda was of such magnitude and duration that the Court considers it to be a grave violation of the prohibition on the use of force expressed in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter," ICJ ruled.

The ICJ also held Uganda as being ‘internationally responsible' for acts of looting, plundering and exploitation of the DRC's natural resources committed by members of the UPDF in the territory of the DRC, for violating its obligation of vigilance in regard to these acts and for failing to comply with its obligations under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations of 1907.

During ICJ's hearings, Uganda had claimed that the DRC had allowed opponents of the Ugandan regime to operate freely in the country and mount attacks on Uganda. But the court ruled that during its deliberations, Uganda had failed to produce any evidence to support these claims.

"The Court notes that during this period, the DRC was in fact acting together with Uganda against the rebels, not in support of them,2 ICJ ruled. While Uganda had argued that its attacks on the DRC was in self-defence, the ICJ ruled it considered that any military action taken by the DRC against Uganda during that period could not be deemed wrongful since it would have been justified as action taken in self-defence.

The Court also pointed out that, while it had pronounced on the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by Ugandan military forces on the territory of the DRC, it nonetheless observed that the actions of the various parties in the complex conflict in the DRC had contributed to the immense suffering faced by the Congolese population. It said it was painfully aware that many atrocities had been committed in the course of the conflict.

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