Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to extend their armies’ joint operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the eastern Congo provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, now into its third month.
Noting the impact of the operation, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni assured the people of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) of total peace in the affected region.
The President was addressing a delegation of security chiefs from the DR Congo led by their Minister in charge of National Defence Unit, Dr Gilbert Kabanda Kurhenga, at State Lodge Nakasero on Sunday.
“We should really work together and finish this problem. This was phase one. We are now ready for phase two. It is very easy for us to destroy those groups,” Mr Museveni said.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), the state organisation responsible for defending the DR Congo, launched joint operations against ADF in Eastern Congo on November 30 with bombardment on four major terrorist camps.
Since then, the two forces have captured several camps including the famous Kambi Ya Yua and secured major routes in Eastern Congo to enable ground battle teams to pursue ADF rebels, who have fled to the thick forests.
To avoid back and forth attacks between the rebels and the joint forces, President Museveni advised the government of DR Congo to intensify regional and local security mechanisms to avoid further insurgencies especially in areas already secured by the joint forces.
“Our experience here is that, once you attack concentrations of the terrorists and they see that you have the capacity, they can’t challenge you army to army, they now go to pure terrorism. They break into small groups and they go to attack villagers,” Mr Museveni said.
Mr Museveni made mention of five elements needed to strengthen security which include using mobile forces, zonal forces, local defence units per village, strategic forces (air forces, artillery) and to lesser - extent special forces.
He said these will later prevent pockets of terrorism where rebels return to attack villagers and kill people ending up discrediting government.
“That’s why for us, we add the third force. These are called local defence units per village where there’s a threat. And they don’t have to be many. When the other people come to kill villagers, they will be there to repulse them,” he said.
The Chief of Defence Forces Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi briefed the President about the progress of the on-going Operation Shujaa aimed at pacifying Eastern Congo, the on-going road construction projects on the Kasindi - Beni - Butembo and Bunagana - Rutshuru to facilitate easy movement of troops and other strategic decisions made between the forces of the two countries.
The Minister in Charge of National Defence of DR Congo, Dr Gilbert Kabanda Kurhenga, thanked President Museveni for his role in ensuring peace in the region.
At the same meeting Ugandan Minister for Defence and Veteran Affairs Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja and his counterpart from DR Congo Dr Kabanda signed the bilateral general agreement on Defence cooperation that will ensure joint operations between the armies of both countries.
Operation Shujaa is being implemented following a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Uganda and their DR Congo counterparts to conduct joint operations for the eradication of ADF and other foreign-armed groups in the eastern part of DR Congo.
Details of what will take place in phase two remain scanty but according to the Ministry of Defence, the meetings in Kampala discussed on measures that they will implement to secure the ongoing works for the joint road construction projects of Kasindi-Beni-Butembo and Bunagana-Rutshuru-Goma in eastern DRC.
During the meeting, representatives from both countries also agreed on having different “sectors” of the joint forces undertaking respective areas of operation to increase effectiveness and tempo, as they seek to further degrade the enemy’s capabilities, the Ministry said.
According to the operation’s joint commanders, the first phase successes include the capture of the ADF’s largest camp Kambi Ya Yua, destruction of other bases Tondoli, Belu I and Belu II, rescue of 31 hostages and rehabilitation of the Nobili-Kamango-Mbau road by the engineering units of the two forces.
In the two months, Operation Shujaa also established a ferry on the River Semliki to link Haibale on the Ugandan side and Burasi on the DRC side.