KAMPALA The Ugandan army on Tuesday dismissed accusations in a leaked U.N. draft on atrocities in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo that it committed war crimes during operations there in the 1990s.
Ugandan troops entered Congo in the 1990s to uproot the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel Ugandan group that had established bases there.
But Ugandan soldiers eventually got sucked into the country's various wars including helping to topple the country's long-serving dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, and twice clashing with their erstwhile ally, Rwanda.
The U.N. report, however, says Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers committed grave crimes during its operations, some of which could be classified as war crimes.
Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF's spokesman, said the U.N. charges were false because they lacked detail and sound evidence.
"I dismiss that report as rubbish, absolute rubbish," he told Reuters.
"We've been through this before with the International Criminal Court which didn't find any evidence of war crimes against the UPDF. Secondly, we conducted our own judicial investigation which cleared us of such accusations."
The leaked report has sparked a diplomatic row between the United Nations and Rwanda as it says troops from that country may have committed genocide in Congo.
Rwanda has threatened to pull its U.N. peacekeeping soldiers out of Sudan's Darfur region in protest and the U.N. is delaying publication of the final report to give concerned states a chance to comment.
REIGN OF TERROR
The U.N. report documents several incidents in Congo where UPDF soldiers are accused of atrocities such as massacres of civilians, torture and destroying critical civilian infrastructure.
"In the town of Beni, UPDF soldiers instituted a reign of terror for several years with complete impunity. They carried out summary executions of civilians, arbitrarily detained large numbers of people and subjected them to torture and various other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments," the report said.
The report said the UPDF used a particularly cruel form of detention that involved putting detainees into deep holes in the ground, where they were forced to live exposed to bad weather.
"What's the motive of the authors of this report? We currently have excellent relations with DRC. Now are these authors aiming at achieving instability or chaos?" Kulayigye said.
In one incident, the UPDF was accused of disabling the turbines on the Inga dam in 1998, depriving the capital Kinshasa and a large areas in the province of Bas-Congo of electricity for three weeks.
The U.N. draft said this act had caused the deaths of numerous people by making property essential to the survival of the civilian population unusable and that it could be classified as a war crime under international humanitarian law.
(Editing by David Clarke)