Africa

“Uganda not worried of exposure at Bemba trial”

The International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, arrived in Uganda on Saturday to consult with government on the arrest warrants of Lords Resistance Army leaders and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Minister for International Affairs also Henry Okello said Ocampo discussed with top government officials involved in international justice issues among others Jean Pierre Bemba’s case.

Uganda Minister for International Affairs Henry Okello Oryem and ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo addressiing the press in Kampala on July 13. Rosebell Kagumire photo.

Uganda Minister for International Affairs Henry Okello Oryem and ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo addressiing the press in Kampala on July 13. Rosebell Kagumire photo.

Much as the attention seems to be going to Gen. Bashir’s expected visit to Uganda on July 27 for the 2009 Smart Partnership Dialogue in Kampala, I dwelt on what the government stakes are as the Congolese ex-Vice-President Bemba, whom they supported for long, faces war crimes charges. The ICC ruled in June that Bemba had to answer to war crimes charges for the actions of his troops in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. He is to face trial on three counts of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity.

He led the Movement for the Liberation of Congo which was a major player in the Congo’s long civil war. Some of his lawyers have hinted that Bemba’s charges may be politically motivated, to remove him from future politics of the DRC.  He lost a landmark run-off election against President Joseph Kabila in 2006 and in 2007 he fled the country after he was charge with treason.  Uganda comes into the picture because they supported Jean-Pierre Bemba, whose rebel forces at one time held nearly one third of Congolese territory. Uganda is alleged to have armed Bemba’s group and helped train his fighters who are implicated in this case at the Hague. Many people have been critical of the reluctance by the ICC to expose what Uganda’s role was and to what extent it led to the mayhem in the Congo. Uganda has come up many times in the trial of Thomas Lubanga and it is expected to come up as Bemba stands trial.

This is what Minister Okello Oryem has to say.

“We discussed the issue of Bemba. We are saying that the Bemba case should be properly handled so that it doesn’t cause a backlash in the DRC. DRC is unstable as it is and we don’t want the supporters of Bemba to think that he’s being prosecuted as an individual because of his differences with Kabila. But it should be understood that Bemba is being prosecuted because of the crimes that were committed under his leadership.”

On Uganda’s role in Bemba’s rebellion:

“There’s no secret that Uganda supported Bemba in the past but now that he is being prosecuted in the courts of law Uganda has got no authority or power to intervene in this case. If he’s innocent it will be proved in the court.

We have nothing to hide we are not going to lose sleep over anything because there’s nothing that we did with Bemba which is wrong. And there’s nothing we did with Bemba that was a cause of him committing the kind of crimes he’s being prosecuted against.”

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3 thoughts on ““Uganda not worried of exposure at Bemba trial”

  1. The fact that you were in a press conference with the ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is impressive. This guy is probably one of the best criminal prosectuors on the planet albeit not everyone agrees with his methods and aggressive style (i.e. Sudan expert Alex de Waal over at the SSRC and his sidekick Julie Flint).

    Personally, I feel that Luis Moreno-Ocampo and the judges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague is the best chance we have in finally seeing the (main) architects of the many henious crimes carried against the people of Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and yes even the victims of LRA violence and atrocities in Northern Uganda___ seeing all of these war criminals and war lords finally being brought to justice. Everyone and everything else has failed___ the United Nations, the UNSC, the African Union, the Arab League, various intergovernmental bodies from near and far have all failed these millions and millions of innocent civilians trapped in conflicts over land and natural resources.

    This is the part of Moreno-Ocampo’s visit to Kampala that may prove to be ‘the hanging noose’ for certain members of the Ugandan military and government who supported various rebel groups in the DRC and CAR:

    “…Uganda is alleged to have armed Bemba’s group and helped train his fighters who are implicated in this case at the Hague. Many people have been critical of the reluctance by the ICC to expose what Uganda’s role was and to what extent it led to the mayhem in the Congo. Uganda has come up many times in the trial of Thomas Lubanga and it is expected to come up as Bemba stands trial.”

    Alleged to have armed…! You must be kidding. The evidence of the Ugandan military’s involvement in the two DR Congo wars would fill the back of a pickup truck. If it can be proved that Ugandan government officials also funded and armed Bemba’s little sideshow in the CAR then the ‘immunity’ provided by certain powerful governments over the mess in the DRC will simply melt away. Yes we can!

    One thing is sure: ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will not give up in carrying out his mandate(s) unless he is forceably removed from his position at The Hague.

  2. Bill, that part of alleged that is towards the end of your comment is my own comment. I say alleged becuase before any court it would still be alleged. Even though there are reports to show they actually did. Otherwise I don’t know the future of international justice as many who perpetrate crimes are those in power and once they go and their successors aren’t put by the will of the people they repeat the crimes. I don’t know who is on the list of the Kenyan violence perpetrators but for Africa international justice is has been applied and even before we see the much needed results many say oh we are singled out becuase we Africans. They might be true on sense but if we are to allow just to be dleivered in some of these countries many would get away with it or it could be years before we see results and justice delayed is justice denied.

  3. Well you are right about the fact that the charges against the Ugandan military (and other Bemba operatives in Uganda) is alleged and must be proved in a court of law. Let’s wait and see how this all develops over the next months and if any charges are brought against the Government of Uganda or other parties.

    In the meantime international justice is being played out quite dramatically in The Hague as Liberia’s former dictator/president Charles Taylor takes the stand in his self-defense. From what I saw and heard today from Taylor as reported on CNN and BBC News, Charles ‘Chuckie’ Taylor is attempting to use the same lame excuse that many in Africa have claimed in the case against Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and other dispicable lowlifes who have been charged by UN special courts, criminal tribunals, and the ICC over the past years.

    Watch developments in the Charles Taylor trial because it will help to set a precedent on how other pending trials of war criminals and criminals against humanity will proceed___ whether they be African or otherwise. The perpetrators of crimes and atrocities in the many wars that took place in the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina) thought they would be able to get away with mass murder too. They don’t think that way no more, no they don’t (I have used a ‘grammatical triple negative’, I know).

    Re: my comment “Are you kidding?!” That’s just an Americanism (slang) which is commonly used in jest (smile). It’s always a pleasure to communicate with you and I am enjoying the ease of use of your new blog. Good luck with your personal writing and your professional journalism career as well. Good luck and be well.

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