DRC locals, backed by police, claim three Ugandan villages in Zombo

Tuesday April 25 2023
Uganda DRC border

Ugandan traders on February 18, 2017 arrive at the Mpondwe check point to cross the border to DRC. Incursions by DRC security personnel into Uganda have been a source of insecurity which undermines cross-border trade between the two countries. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP


A border dispute between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is brewing again in the frontier town of Padea in West Nile after DRC locals backed by the country’s police crossed into Uganda and laid claim to three villages.

The villages are all in Zombo District, Uganda.  

Such incursions by DRC security personnel into Uganda have been a constant cause for concern in parts of West Nile. They have also become a source of insecurity, which undermines cross-border trade between the two countries.

Uganda’s Area Resident District Commissioner, Lt Col (Rtd) Pius Alitema, told The Monitor that his office has scheduled a meeting with DRC security from Mahagi Territory as part of interim efforts to calm the situation.

He also revealed that the ministry of foreign affairs in Kampala has been briefed about the unfolding situation and plans to take up the matter at a higher level.  

Lt Col Alitema called for respect of the international boundary, warning that any violation creates insecurity.


Read: New dynamics in quest for DRC peace

“We must engage our local authorities operating at the border to respect the national boundary and also maintain peace and security to promote trade and commerce. Our people should be at peace because these people all speak the same language and inter-marry. So, there is no point of rivalry,” he said.

Barricade erected 

During the weekend, a group of suspected DRC nationals entered the Ugandan side of the border backed by their country’s police from Mahagi territory and erected a barricade on the Padea-Congo Road.

A similar incident happened five years ago in nearby Asina when the DRC civilians again attempted to unilaterally extend the international border two kilometres inside Uganda.

There was a souring of relations between communities on either side of the border until Uganda’s army moved in and opened up the barricaded areas.

A local leader, Mr Benjamin Ocirwoth, said Ugandans in the affected border area are living in fear of being attacked by DRC nationals.

Ocirwoth said the locals are being stopped by DRC civilians from accessing their farmlands. 

“We are not at peace because anytime we can be attacked by DRC. If the matter is not taken seriously at the national level, the disagreement will continue to affect both business and studies of our children,” he said.

Mr Wilfred Jakwonga, a businessman in Padea, said the border dispute is now affecting trade.   

“We cannot trade freely ever since the DRC created a barrier inside the Ugandan side and our people are being threatened,” Jakwonga said.  

Read: Ugandan army captures rebel ADF leader

‘Find a lasting solution’    

Zombo District Chairperson Benson Oyulu told Daily Monitor that a lasting solution to the on-off border dispute should be found through national-level meetings.

“The issue of national boundaries cannot be handled by the locals. It needs the higher authorities from both sides since it is a cause of insecurity to both parties,” Oyulu said.

The deputy territorial administrator for Mahagi District in DRC, Col Claude Ntumba, said they will hold dialogue with Ugandan authorities to resolve any conflict.

“We should all have respect for each other at the border areas and people should avoid establishing unnecessary checkpoints to extort money from people,” he said.

The Monitor has learnt that an unnamed DRC clan chief is behind the latest attempt to establish illegal customs point inside Uganda so as to extort money from traders.

In June 2009, DRC policemen put up an illegal police post in Agyero, two kilometres near River Nyibola at Goli customs on the Uganda border. The post has remained in place after an agreement was reportedly reached by authorities on either side of the border.

More than 15 kilometres of the border is constituted by a road (right from Amwonyo behind Got-Agu through villages of Openju, Simu, Asina, Angenja, Akwerali, Kakra, Acu, Pamitu and Asina parishes in Abanga Sub- County).

The border also runs from Acu, Ajigu, Jupucama to Awasi in Jangokoro Sub- County, stretching all the way to Athuma, Zeu, Alangi to Kango sub-counties.

Out of the 13 sub-counties of Zombo, nine of them share borders with DRC. And there are 75 villages that share borders with DRC.

West Nile border woes

In November 2007, DRC soldiers arrested two surveyors of Heritage Oil and a guard from Saracen Security Company after they reportedly lost their way and wandered 200 metres inside Kolokoto in Congo.

In May 2008, DRC authorities erected a barrier at River Ofo, 300 metres inside Uganda in Vurra, Arua District. The standoff was resolved by Presidents Museveni and Joseph Kabila, through dialogue.

In June 2009, DRC policemen built a police post at Agyero located two kilometres on River Nyibola at Goli customs on Uganda border.

In August 2009, armed Sudanese attacked and stopped the MTN construction work at Jale in Moyo District.