Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have announced an extension of their joint military cooperation that saw the two countries’ armies launch an offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces rebels holed up in eastern DRC.
According to a statement from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), the extension was signed Thursday by the defence ministers of both countries in the DRC capital of Kinshasa.
“Uganda and DRC jointly extend operations in eastern DRC following a joint ministerial review meeting of ministers of Defence of both countries in Kinshasa. The ministers also approved Standard Operating Procedures for handling ADF combatants who defect or surrender,” the statement reads in part.
According to UPDF deputy spokesperson Col Deo Akiiki, the new extension will span two months as have the previous ones since the start of the operation.
“The ongoing operations are normally reviewed after every two months by CDFs who then make recommendations to ministers of Defence,” he said.
The statement adds that the ministers reviewed the current situation in eastern DRC and ongoing joint operation code named Shuja, following the third meeting of Chiefs of Defence Forces that happened recently in Kampala.
Uganda’s technical team was led by Maj Gen Dick Prit Olum, while FARDC was represented by Chief of General Staff Gen Célestin Mbala.
In November last year, the UPDF and their Congolese counterparts the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) launched a joint offensive against the ADF rebels.
Kampala sought Kinshasa’s permission to pursue the rebels, accusing them of orchestrating several assassinations of government officials, suicide bombings and recruiting of Ugandans to their ranks.
The ADF has been an anti-Uganda terrorist group since mid-1990s, but recently established links with the Islamic States of Syria and Iraq (ISIS).
The United Nations says the group is responsible for about 200 killings and displacement of 40,000 people in DRC from the 155 attacks they carried out in 2020 alone.
The joint operation is currently in its third phase, according to Maj Peter Mugisa, the spokesperson of the UPDF mountain brigade. This third phase involves chasing down fleeing insurgents who fled when officers of the joint military operation bombarded their hideouts.
This phase also includes securing communities, and recruiting and training local defence units that are left behind to thwart possible attacks from the rebels.
“For the past one month, we have been pursuing these rebels to wherever they have been running and we are still doing exactly that,” Mugisa said.