Wednesday,September 30,2020 10:27 AM

Congo hands over captured soldiers

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th August 2007 03:00 AM

The Congolese army yesterday afternoon released the four UPDF soldiers who were captured on Lake Albert on July 29.

The Congolese army yesterday afternoon released the four UPDF soldiers who were captured on Lake Albert on July 29.

By Bizimungu kisakye, Fred
Kayizzi and William Rwebembera

The Congolese army yesterday afternoon released the four UPDF soldiers who were captured on Lake Albert on July 29.

The commanders in eastern Congo also acknowledged that their troops carried out the attack on the oil barge on Friday, in which British oil worker Carl Nefdt was killed.

The four marines were handed over by the commander of the Ituri Zone, Gen. Kinkewa Kambwa, to the 2nd division commander, Brig. Hudson Mukasa.

The hand-over ceremony, which was attended by several Congolese army officers and witnessed by a representative of the UN observers’ mission, took place on the disputed Rukwanzi Island.

The four looked relieved and healthy. They said they had been treated well by the Congolese.

The Congolese insisted that the UPDF soldiers had crossed into their territory. But Mukasa said if such allegations occur, there were mechanisms to handle them. He referred to the joint verification committee, set up by both armies.

“The demarcation of the border is being handled at the ministerial level. If our soldiers overstepped into your waters, it would be unfortunate. But the joint verification team should have verified that violation,” Mukasa said.

“The most crucial issue is to identify where the border between Uganda and Congo lies. Both forces lack the equipment to locate the exact borderline.”

He noted that Lake Albert provided a livelihood for people in both Uganda and Congo and stressed that the UPDF had no plan to attack Congo whatsoever.

The commander of Ituri Zone vowed that the soldiers who attacked the oil workers would be brought to book.

“The soldiers who are suspected of having committed the offence will be punished,” Gen. Kambwa said. He called for collaboration between the armies of the two countries.

“I want us to work together as UPDF and FARDC. When misunderstandings arise, as armies, we should always meet and settle our differences,” he said.

He appealed to the UPDF to inform them whenever they carried out patrols on Lake Albert.

Earlier, the Ugandan team was received on the island by a group of Congolese women who spread their kitenges (wrappers) on the ground as a sign of welcome.

With their hands in the air, the women sang and danced. This did not please the Congolese officers, who tried in vain to force them to remove the wrappers.

Meanwhile, the UPDF has stepped up security at the oil sites on the shores of Lake Albert following a directive from President Yoweri Museveni.

The UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, said on Sunday that all military units in the area, including the marine section, would immediately be reinforced following the attack on the oil barge.

“From now on, security is going to be strengthened in this area. More UPDF marine boats will be provided to mount around-the-clock patrols on Lake Albert and secure the oil explorers on the lake,” Aronda said.

“Military units in the area will also be reinforced and intelligence collection in and around the oil sites will be intensified.”

He said the Government was determined to ensure that such an unfortunate incident does not happen again. The general made the assurances while addressing employees of the Canadian-based oil company, Heritage, at Kingfisher oil well in Hoima district.

He was accompanied by defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga and the Hoima resident district commissioner, Martha Asiimwe.

Security sources said Museveni had appointed a special regional internal security officer in charge of the oil exploration region.

Kiyonga, who delivered the Government’s condolences to the Heritage workers, condemned the killing of the British contractor.

He said Uganda had formally protested to the Congolese government over the attack, demanding an explanation.

The Heritage seismic acquisition manager, Julian Heawood, hailed the Government for its quick response, which he said had greatly boosted their confidence.

But a group of Ugandan fishermen on Lake Albert complained about a fresh attack on Sunday night by suspected members of the Congolese army, who were travelling by boat.

Congo hands over captured soldiers

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