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Wednesday,August 12,2020 15:43 PM

Uganda has to stay in the DRC

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st January 2002 03:00 AM

The best way forward is to stay focused in the area of our national interest that under the control of RCD-Kisangani /ML

The best way forward is to stay focused in the area of our national interest that under the control of RCD-Kisangani /ML

By Onapito-Ekomoloit As 2001 closes, one issue on the world scene in which excitement among Ugandans is at its lowest ebb is our involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With the goings and comings in the country to our east seemingly only leaving behind a cocktail of anarchy, factionalism, spiced with ethnic bloodletting, the apathy is understandable. The bad news for Ugandans though is that our country’s fortunes, security or otherwise, are inextricably tied with eastern Congo’s. The good news is, for the first time since Uganda got involved in the Congo in 1998, the country has an opportunity to clearly define its interests there. For some Ugandans, even the UPDF limited presence in eastern Congo, after pulling out a large number of troops, as per the Lusaka Accord, is still bad enough. Needless to say, the area where the UPDF is still stationed not only neighbours Uganda, but is also the part of Congo, which is furthest from control by Kinshasa, and has always been left to its own vices. Abandoned, with its easiest access route to the outside world being Uganda, this corner of Congo is like a neglected bush behind one’s compound. Once it catches fire, it burns your house too. For this reason alone, if not any other, independent Uganda has always been sucked into the eastern Congo problems, as seen much earlier in the Milton Obote/Idi Amin adventures of the 60. Yet notwithstanding the diversity of opinion on the UPDF mission, there are undisputable facts about our involvement. - Under Mobutu: Eastern Congo, which really matters to us, had become a haven for anti-Ugandan rebels backed by Sudan, with Mobutu’s complicity. - Under Kabila (The Father): Kabila, whose rebellion had been baby sat by Rwanda and Uganda, stabbed his allies in the back soon after assuming power in Kinshasa. - Kabila gave green light to the ADF to continue fighting against the Uganda government and okayed Sudan using eastern Congo airfields to aide the rebels. - Under Kabila (The Son) Like father like Son; Kabila Junior is unable to control eastern Congo. It remains a haven for thugs opposed to Uganda, some with ethnic linkages in the region. - A jilted Rwanda, despite efforts to smoothen things with Kampala, has designs to help anti-Uganda rebels operating in the anarchic area. - The impending oil drilling in the Semiliki Valley, and the surge in the Kasese Cobalt market makes control of the region a strategic priority for Uganda. The issue now is no longer why and how we got to where we are in the Congo but rather, where do we go next? To many Ugandans, the answer is a simple four-letter word: Home. Exasperated by the delaying antics of other Congo players in implementing the Lusaka Peace Accord, President Museveni too once contemplated withdrawing all Ugandan troops unilaterally but the UN prevailed on him to stay within Lusaka. But with or without Lusaka, Uganda has to stay engaged in the Congo. The question is how, so that we are able to cut our loses in financial, human and public opinion terms? Naturally, the best way forward is to stay focused in the area of our national interest: the area under the control of RCD-Kisangani /ML. We cannot run away from its problems because they have a potential, as demonstrated by history, to cause enormous inconvenience. For reasons of geography, political paralysis and infrastructure infertility of the Congo, neither Kabila nor any other Kinshasa-based leaders will in the foreseeable future have an impact on the administration of this area to the best security interests of Uganda. Left to its own vices, this corner of Congo, with its multiplicity of tribes and warring factions will remain a haven for anarchists and criminals, whose activities, if not checked, will be detrimental to Uganda’s interests. Since Kinshasa has neither the capacity nor the will to check these anarchists, we who feel the pinch most must do it by helping the RCD-ML leadership stabilise the area. Fortunately, helping the rebels establish a functioning administration in this area will be in line with the provision in the Lusaka Accord, which says: “The Congolese parties shall administer the areas they control until an agreed interim arrangement is in place to re-establish a central authority.” Until recently, the hardest part for Uganda was sorting out among the rebel leaders-Prof. Wamba dia Wamba, Mbusa Nyamwisi, Ateenyi Tibasiima, and others-as to who had the undisputed leadership of this area. Recently, however, these Congolese rebels, with the mediation of the Ugandan leadership, have apparently put their act together. Meeting at Silver Springs hotel in Kampala mid-December, they agreed to form a united RCD-ML authority, with Mbusa Nyamwisi as its Internal head and Wamba as the external boss. Nyamwisi, a businessman- cum-politician, emerged as the natural leader of the RCD-ML following the disintegration of the short-lived Front for the Liberation of Congo (FLC), an umbrella group of Ugandan-backed Congo rebels. The collapse of FLC, which included Jean Pierre Bemba’s Movement Liberation of Congo (MLC), sent strong signals to Ugandans that any scheme to secure their interests that treats Congo as one huge landmass, 10 times the size of Uganda, is doomed. The key lesson from the collapse of FLC was that Congolese will mainly support those who do not threaten their ethnic existence. Thus, the main ethnic groups in RCD-ML areas reluctantly accepted Bemba as president of FLC only because their own got juicy positions. Nyamwisi is from the Banande ethnic group, a business community that stradles most of the RCD-ML areas, were happy that their man was the prime minister of FLC. Tibasima’s appointment as FLC minister of mining pleased his Hema cattle-keeping community, though it worried others because it seemed to indicate new power for the Hema. Trouble for FLC started when MLC replaced RDC-ML administrators with its own, took over revenue collection and siphoned the funds away to Bemba’s Equateur without re-investing, in a move reminiscent of the Mobutu era. Matters were not helped by the fact that eastern Congolese knew Bemba’s family to be closely linked with Mobutu, and they saw Bemba as the re-incarnation of Mobutu. The population and RDC-ML leadership protested, but Bemba’s reaction was high-handed: he ordered the arrest of RCD-ML top officials. The tension culminated in Bemba’s MLC attacking Nyamwisi’s house in Beni while he was away in South Africa, but Bemba was overwhelmed by Nyamwisi’s support in the area. Nyamwisi returned to Beni from South Africa and announced he was in charge in the area and FLC was no more. Bemba has since tried to jump into bed with Kigali and its RCD-Goma allies, for the sole reason of getting military might to neutralize Nyamwisi. The only option left to the Ugandan leadership is to deal with RCD-ML and MLC separately in their spheres of influence, and jointly only when it’s the rebels versus the Kinshasa government. With the RCD-ML leaders agreed, establishing effective authority is the key to everything else. The crisis in this area is that a hundred rats are scrambling for leadership, yet what it needs is one humane lion! Apparently, this lion in the making is Mbusa Nyamwisi, a man with who a following-based on ethnic networks that stretch into Uganda. He needs to watched and studied. Onapito-Ekomoloit was a member of the foreign affairs committee in the Sixth Parliament.

Uganda has to stay in the DRC

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