Courtesy of Mr, Nicholas Opiyo,
June 02, 2014(Kampala) — Commendable as it may have been, the continued involvement of the Ugandan army in the deeply ethnically divisive and continually brutal South Sudan conflict exposes President Museveni to a possibility of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.
The intervention in South Sudan to prevent a bloodbath may have saved lives in the initial stages of the conflict but has since morphed into full combat by the UPDF on the side of the Salvar Kiir forces – facilitating, if not part taking, in grave violations under international law.
The gravity of the occurrences of violations by the South Sudanese Army and the UPDF on the one hand and the rebel forces of Riek Machar on the other hand has necessitated an inquiry by a usually reluctant and largely indolent African Union. In an extra-ordinary resolution, its 15th, The AU ‘called on South Sudan to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable for their actions.’
The AU Inquiry is yet to conclude its findings but the abundance of evidence of crime against humanity, war crimes and grave violations by the protagonists should make their work a lot easier. The doubters of the AU are watching to see if the AU will shed of its dubious reputation of inaction by taking firm measures to ensure accountability in South Sudan.
Amnesty International in its report Nowhere Safe: Civilians Under Attack in South Sudandocuments heinous atrocities in the conflict and chronicles incidences of what it claims are war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave violations of human rights.
Besides the well-documented crimes, there are also accusations of use of cluster bombs in the South Sudan Army –UPDF recapture of the town of Bor in January 2014. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch reports indicate evidence of RBK-250-275 cluster bombs and an unknown quantity of AO-1SCh bomblets or submunitions, dropped by fixed wing aircraft or helicopters in February after the government takeover of the State in February 2014.
Uganda is known to have deployed its controversial jet fighters in the Bor onslaught and massacre and alongside its partner-in-crime are plausible perpetrators of the gruesome Bor and other massacres. They and they alone, at least as yet, are known to deploy military aircraft in this conflict.
The use of cluster bombs is prohibited under the Convention Cluster Munitions because they have wide-area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
These accusations and volumes of assembled evidence suggest criminality of grave international concerns. These crimes are now widely known as injurious to the conscience of the international community and the commitments punish them, whenever they occur, is now almost universal.
There may have been feeble and failed attempts to punish these crimes for instance in the Israeli-Palestine conflict but that has not extinguished the serious concerns of the international community about their occurrences. This month the ICC re-opened investigations into the Iraq invasion by the allied forces, jailed former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga twelve years in jail for aiding and abetting war crimes – similar charges that led to the conviction and sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by a UN Tribunal.
The concerns are heightened and action more robust if the protagonist are fairly weaker states in the sense of international politics. But wave as you may the Pan-African flags; lives have been lost in the hands of trigger-happy and selfish warmongers. The souls of the dead cry for justice and the injured accountability and reparations.
The AU inquiry appears to be a formality because of the abundance of evidence and it is unlikely that the AU will act shifty to sanctify its new member. They have floundered on too many occasions. Its inaction in Central African Republic, Mali and Ivory Coast, to name but a few, have been excuses for the involvement of foreign forces in these countries.
Whether the AU finds evidence of culpability or not, an irreversible process of accountability against the leaders of the protagonists has been set in motion and President Museveni’s hands are soiled, he might just get caught in the distance of time.
Mr Nicholas Opiyo, A Civil Rights Advocate with Chapter Four Uganda