Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICC: Sep ‘08

IWPR continues to probe alleged corruption in Ugandan development projects and final preparations made for new war crimes justice radio programme in Congo.
IWPR-trained journalists in Uganda continued to probe charges of widespread misuse of funds for redevelopment of northern Uganda.

As part of a special report, Rebuilding Northern Uganda, IWPR contributor Bill Oketch revealed that World Bank officials, who have provided more than 100 million US dollars for economic development projects in the north, have cut off future funding for the north.

The additional funds were intended to support the second phase of the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, NUSAF, in which local communities created projects and applied for start-up funds from the programme.

Oketch and fellow IWPR reporter Patrick Okino reported that arrests had been made in connection with original NUSAF programme, and other suspects had fled, fearing arrest.

The IWPR stories prompted World Bank officials to press Ugandan authorities for an investigation which continues. The World Bank officials said that future money would be withheld until problems surrounding the prior three-year programme were properly resolved.

Meanwhile, IWPR reporters in the region continued to follow the deteriorating situation in the North Kivu province of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

IWPR contributor Taylor Toeka Kakala in Goma and IWPR reporter Lisa Clifford in The Hague joined forces to report that the tenuous ceasefire signed in January by more than 20 militias in the east appears to be crumbling as militias clash with the Congolese army. In addition, they reported renewed child soldier recruitment in the region was feared.

Kakala and Clifford also teamed up on a report regarding the fallout of a probe by United Nations investigators into sexual misconduct by UN soldiers in eastern Congo. The investigation prompted the return of UN peacekeepers to India, but locals told IWPR that prostitution remains rife at peacekeeping base.

Back in Uganda, reporters continued to follow developments with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army. Kampala-based IWPR contributor Rosebell Kagumire reported that the US has imposed sanctions on those who would do business with the LRA leader Joseph Kony. The move is an effort to curtail any international support for the rebels.

Additionally, Kagumire explored the questions that surround Uganda’s proposed war crimes court, which is part of the as yet unsigned peace agreement with LRA and would be used to put the rebels on trial for crimes committed during their 20-year war in northern Uganda.

Related to war crimes, IWPR reporter Oketch wrote that frustrations among villagers in the north with the lack of war crimes trials have prompted some local courts to take matter into their own hands. These courts, intended to resolve minor disputes, could now tackle much more serious crimes.

IWPR reporter Okino wrote that the lack of strong authority in the north has prompted mob justice as some communities go after those thought to have committed murder in the north over land disputes.

And in an IWPR exclusive, IWPR’s The Hague-based reporter Katy Glassborow interviewed Sudan foreign minister Deng Alor, who said the moves by the International Criminal Court, ICC, to indict Sudan president Omar al-Bashir have caused a crisis within Sudan’s coalition government.

Breaking with the official line, Alor suggested that Sudan cooperate with the ICC, rather than fight it.

In other developments, IWPR has been making final preparations for the launch of our Facing Justice programme in DRC, which will deal with issues around the International Criminal Court, ICC, including the upcoming trial of rebel leader Thomas Lubanga.

Facing Justice is set to start broadcasting in October to over 95 radio stations throughout DRC on the Search For Common Ground network.

Congolese journalism graduate Julia Illondo will present the programme in French and Lingala, and it is also being translated into Swahili.

Illondo said that preparations for the first broadcasts are going well, but that it has been a steep learning curve to get up to speed with developments at the ICC.

“Since I’ve been working on the project, I understand that international justice is a process and takes times. And I understand why the trial of Thomas Lubanga has been stalled, and that the ICC needs to do everything it can for the trial to be saved,” she said.

“Through the programme, I think people will be able to understand better why the trial has been postponed. Congolese people always think that things happen because of a political reason. I hope the programme will let them know that Lubanga’s trial has not been postponed because of [Congolese President Joseph] Kabila.

“It will take time for them to understand that the ICC is independent and does not depend on Kabila, and is not directly linked to the UN. I feel the programme will help people to understand these things.

“The programmes are in Lingala, Swahili and French. Most people who didn’t go to school do not understand judicial terms, so we have translated these terms into words they understand, and explained them in ways that they understand.

“Even for someone who doesn’t have a state diploma, and only went to primary school, we want to make these people understand about the ICC in simple words. I think this helps very much, as at the moment there is a lot of misunderstanding about the court.”