UPDF on the spot over DR Congo mission
Musavuli said President Joseph Kabila has no mandate to ask Uganda for military help because his term in office expired ...
Several groups have protested the recent UPDF operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On December 22, UPDF revealed that it had launched attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels after the militants killed 15 UN peacekeepers early this month.
The attacks are still going on. However, groups from both the DRC and Uganda have warned Uganda of consequences over the recent aerial and artillery shelling on several targets in eastern Congo.
Groups from Beni, Congo, including Beni Civil Society and another led by a Congolese author and politician, Boniface Musavuli, said the UN Charter prohibits states from using military force on the territory of another sovereign state, unless they have a UN mandate or authorization from the government of the country concerned.
Musavuli is a native of Beni, now living in exile in France. Asked whether he doubted Uganda's claims that the attack was in full knowledge and support of Kinshasa, Musavuli said President Joseph Kabila has no mandate to ask Uganda for military help because his term in office expired in December 2016.
"The DRC Constitution does not allow a president, whose term of office has expired, to invite a foreign army into Congo. So Uganda is violating international law," he said.
Uganda has in the past been charged and penalised for breaching the sovereign territory of DRC and plundering its resources. Uganda had also sent troops into DRC in pursuit of rebels.
The International Court of Justice, the UN's highest court, ruled that Uganda was guilty of "occupying Ituri (a region in the DRC), violations of sovereignty, illegal use of force, violations of international human rights laws and looting and plunder" between August 1998 and June 2003.
However, the army spokesperson, Brig. Richard Karemire, refuted the allegations, saying the dynamics of the past and those of the present are different.
"We are not breaking any laws by carrying out air strikes and using long-range artillery weapons from our side of the border. More so, this joint operation was proposed by the DRC government. The mission is being done with full co-operation of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC)," Karemire stated.
Musavuli also claims the attack on Tanzanian peacekeepers was not carried out by the ADF.
"The ADF has not even existd as a military force since April 2014. The massacres and violence that have been taking place in Beni since 2014 were carried out by certain units of the Congolese army to cause chaos in Beni," he claimed.
"President Kabila wants the world to believe that there is Islamic terrorism in Beni and a security crisis that requires him to remain in power indefinitely. I can tell you that the base where the Tanzanian peacekeepers were attacked is more than 50km from the Uganda border, where the Uganda army says it is conducting operations against the ADF positions."
Musavuli insisted that the real ADF fighters ceased to exist after their leader, Jamil Mukulu, was arrested in Tanzania in April 2015.
"All the area once controlled by the ADF has already been recovered by the army and MONUSCO. The attack on the Tanzanian peacekeepers was carried out by a force of several hundred combatants wearing Congolese uniforms in an area under Congolese army control.
"The ADF, even when they were active, could not carry out such a large-scale operation. Moreover, the number of ADF who survived the 2014 operations is no more than a hundred people scattered throughout the bush without co-ordination or supplies.
"How can anyone believe that they could mobilise several hundred combatants, attack a base of 100 highly-trained and well-armed soldiers from four sides and sustain the battle for more than three hours?" he asked.
Karemire, however, insists that intelligence reports have proved that the ADF has remobilised into a strong force after the capture of Mukulu.
"The ADF is now under the command of Sheikh Baluku Luum and is comprised of between 700 and 900 militia men," he said.
"Our mandate as UPDF is to do everything within the law to protect the people of Uganda from all enemies, foreign and domestic. For as long as the ADF remain a threat to peace in Uganda, we shall remain deployed to neutralise the threat," he said.
The local protests were led by the MP for Busiiro East, Medard Ssegona, who said the UPDF needs to seek Parliament's approval before deploying outside Uganda.