What next as Uganda-DR Congo relations hit a new low?

Saturday June 9 2018

Ugandan Allied Democratic Front rebel leader Jamil Mukulu. PHOTO | AFP

Ugandan Allied Democratic Front rebel leader Jamil Mukulu. PHOTO | AFP  

DICTA ASIIMWE
By DICTA ASIIMWE
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Relations between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo appear to have hit another all-time low as President Yoweri Museveni singled out his western neighbour for “preserving” the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

President Museveni told Parliament on Wednesday how DRC and the United Nations were responsible for the survival of the ADF, a rebel outfit linked to Islamic extremists that terrorised parts of western Uganda through the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The ADF, whose leader Jamil Mukulu was arraigned before the international crimes division of the High Court two weeks ago, but has been in Uganda Police’s custody since 2015, is allegedly to blame for all the high profile murders that have taken place since 2012.

President Museveni blames the rebel outfit for the murders of seven Muslim clerics, assassinated in various parts of the country between 2012 and 2016, as well as those of former Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kawesi who was murdered in broad day light on March 17 last year.

Other murders that the president says were executed by ADF include that of Major Muhammed Kiggundu, a former ADF commander turned government collaborator and Joan Kagezi a former deputy director of public prosecutions, who at the time of her murder in 2015, was leading the trial of suspects who were later convicted for bombing Kampala in 2010.

The president also blames the ADF for the death of Susan Magara, who was kidnapped, kept for weeks and later killed. Her body was found in the Wakiso district area, after her family had paid a ransom.

To back his theory of the ADF in DRC, President Museveni says the security forces currently have 90 suspects in custody, while two of Ms Magara’s murderers were also killed.

The president’s attack on the Kinshasa government in the terms he did indicates a new low in relations. It also opens the possibility of expanded redeployment of Ugandan forces into the DRC.

In December 2017, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) made an out of the blue foray into the DRC. The UPDF later reported that they had killed 100 ADF insurgents, in addition to destroying eight camps of the rebel outfit.

Uganda and DRC have enjoyed an on-off relationship over the better part of the past two-and-a-half decades.

The EastAfrican can report that while the two countries re-opened diplomatic missions in each-others’ capitals, DRC’s mission in Kampala has not had a substantive ambassador for the past two years following the transfer of the former ambassador to China.

The Charge de Affairs, currently holding fort as acting ambassador was reportedly in Kinshasa when The EastAfrican enquired for comments.

Officials at Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign affairs remain cagey about whether a broad policy position exists within government on the relations between the two countries.

The UPDF first deployed in 1996 to pursue suspected ADF rebels following an attack by the rebel on the western border town of Mpondwe in Kasese district.

The ADF was later to wreak havoc in a brutal guerrilla campaign in many districts of the west mainly Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kamwenge.

Kampala complains that Congo has for long harboured hostile forces as justification for the incursions. The latest attacks could see a redeployment observers say.

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