9 August 2007

Uganda: Congo Gunmen Raid Kanungu

Kanungu — SECURITY minister Amama Mbabazi has warned that Uganda might consider re-entering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), if attacks on its citizens do not stop.

Addressing residents of the border town of Butogota in Kanungu, which gunmen from the DRC attacked on Wednesday morning, Mbabazi castigated the Congolese authorities and the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) for failing to control their territory.

Three people were killed and one seriously injured by armed assailants who crossed into Uganda from the DRC in the early hours of Wednesday, holding the small border town under siege for several hours. Gunfire rocked the trading centre as the assailants, suspected to be Interahamwe operating from eastern Congo, ransacked shops.

According to the residents and the Kanungu deputy Police commander, Henry Ipminyeto, the shooting started at around 12:30am and ended at 3:00pm.

They said the attackers, who spoke a mixture of Swahili and Kinyarwanda, appeared to be an organised group who had intelligence about the town. They were wearing military fatigues and armed with sub-machine guns.

The attackers, estimated to be 30, cut off the town as they looted cell phones, clothes, radios and merchandise from over eight shops.

They also surrounded the Police station and sprayed it with bullets, as policemen inside were too frightened to respond.

Mbabazi Kigyere, a taxi driver of a pick-up truck and his brother Wilson Biryomumisho, his turn boy, were shot dead as they entered the town and refused to stop when ordered.

Moses Bahati, a second-year student of Makerere University, was hit by a stray bullet, while Aggrey Kiconco sustained serious injuries after being shot in the left arm.

Mbabazi, who conveyed President Museveni's condolences to the bereaved families, blasted the Congolese government and MONUC for their laxity.

Addressing security and local government officials in Butogota, he said: "This kind of behaviour should not occur in the modern era. How can we have a group of gangsters crossing the border at midnight when people are asleep, loot and kill and then walk back?"

He also named forces such as ADF, PRA, NALU, and LRA which continue to operate from Congolese territory.

"They are living in peace as if Congo is nurturing them, giving them not only a home but also the ability to grow in their capacity to cause greater harm to Uganda," he said.

Patience in Kampala was running out, he warned.

"We have tried our best to engage them diplomatically and worked out mechanism after mechanism. But clearly Congo is not interested. They behave as if it is not their business, continuing to harbour those who are terrorising our people."

"We reserve the right of self-defence," he added.

Mbabazi also slammed MONUC.

"They have a force there but how can they be in control and let such things happen? We have made many presentations to the UN and proposed a formula on how these issues should be resolved but they have given us a deaf ear." It did not matter which of the forces attacked Uganda, he said, adding that if such terrorism continued, Uganda would fight back.

Mbabazi was accompanied by the commander of the Land Forces, Maj. Gen. Katumba Wamala.

The incident follows an attack on an oil barge by Congolese soldiers last Friday and the capture of four UPDF soldiers a week earlier.

In 1999, eight tourists were killed in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest by suspected Interahamwe, the militias responsible for the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

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