How Kabila, UN boss begged him to help, then double-crossed him.
When the M23 threatened to take over Goma city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) in July sparking fear within the country's top leadership, President Yoweri Museveni received two very urgent telephone calls.
One was from DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and the other from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Both had the same request: "Please intervene so that the M23 does not take over Goma."
Goma is the most important town in North Kivu province. The rebels had already thrashed the Congolese forces and forced 500 of them to abandon their weapons and flee to Uganda through the Bunagana border post.
Kabila was panicky because the rebel advance was similar to that made by the National Congress Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel movement in 2008, which enabled the rebels to force Kabila into a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009. It is this deal that gives the current rebels their name--March 23 in a reference to that date. Many M23 rebels, who recently changed the name to the Congolese Revolutionary Army, are former CNDP fighters who accuse Kabila of breaching the deal.
President Museveni is the chairman of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). But he also boasts of an army with the most experience in guerrilla warfare. Museveni who started fighting as a guerrilla in the 1960s, captured power in 1986 at the head of guerrilla outfit that he has built into an army that has frustrated several rebel groups including Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) only for them to hide in the Congo forests.
Following the two requests, President Museveni personally intervened, stopped the fighting and ended the M23 assult on Goma.
Shortly after this, Museveni called President Kabila and told him that he wanted to invite M23 to Kampala and initiate some-sort-of shuttle diplomacy between the M23 leadership and DRC officials to build confidence and later have the two parties engage in peace talks. Ugandan ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs would conduct the mediation negotiations between the warring parties.
Kabila agreed and representatives of the warring parties were invited to Kampala and booked into two separate hotels from where they would meet and hold secret talks.
At the same time, a UN report alleging that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was backing the M23 rebels militarily had been 'leaked'. As a result, tensions between DRC and Rwanda were high as Rwanda, which feared consequences of a UN report that accused it of backing the M23 and led several countries including Britain to cut off aid, was battling to clear its name.
To cool the tempers, President Museveni as the chairman of the ICGLR, invited the heads of state to deliberate on pacifying Congo. And as the heads of state deliberated, President Museveni told them that actually the M23 were here in Kampala engaging Congolese government officials that Kabila had sent.
The heads of state welcomed the move and applauded the president.
"They said good initiative Mr. President, we fully support it," Foreign Affairs Minister, Henry Okello Oryem told The Independent. Then he added: "Now for someone to turn around and say that the M23 is here because we want to keep them is absolute nonsense."
Oryem was reacting to allegations that Uganda was harboring the leadership of the M23. The allegations stemmed from another 'leaked' report by the same UN Security Council's Group of Experts which has this time added Uganda to Rwanda and accused both of backing the M23 rebels.
The report, which notes that Rwanda's defence minister, James Kabarebe, is commanding M23 rebels also accuses Rwanda and Uganda of arming the rebels and sending troops and helping them to attack UN peacekeepers.
The confidential report, which first surfaced in a Reuters news story, reportedly says that Rwanda and Uganda - despite their strong denials have been and continue to support M23 rebels in their fight against the Congolese government troops in eastern Congo part of North Kivu province.
"Both Rwanda and Uganda have been supporting M23," Reuters quoted from the 44-page report, "While Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support to M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations," it says.
Rwanda, which was recently elected to the UN Security Council despite bad-mouthing from critics especially DRC, sent a comprehensive rebuttal to the first UN report.
But the latest report appears to have taken Uganda by surprise and Oryem has called it 'rubbish'.
But Kabila told journalists in Kinshasa that what was "the truth about what is happening or has been happening over the last eight months in North Kivu; the true face of the people definitely behind what is happening the report was a true reflection of what has been happening in the past eight months".
Kabila told the journalists that he believed Oryem said whatever he said because of the press and not what was happening on the ground, Kampala was not forthcoming with information, and that he was going to take up the matter with Uganda at the highest level.
Indeed Kabila sent an emissary to President Museveni on Oct.29 but it seems the emissary carried a different message compared to what Kabila told journalists.
According to Oryem, the emissary's message indicated that the Congolese government has not lost confidence in Uganda and still expects Uganda to continue with the peace process.
To Oryem, Kabila's conflicting private and public utterances are puzzling.
"If he [Kabila] says it reflects what has been happening on the ground, do we still enjoy the confidence or we do not enjoy the confidence? If we still enjoy the confidence, then it begs the question what is really on the ground," Oryem told The Independent.
Oryem says Uganda will continue with the peace process because he believes the report implicating Uganda is the handiwork of parties inside and outside Congo, who want confusion in eastern DRC because they profit from it.
"So when Uganda comes and has the capacity to stop M23, and we say hey stop it let us sit down and talk we are hitting right where it hurts them because once we bring peace and stability they are in no position to continue profiting," Oryem told The Independent in an interview, "So what do they do, go for Uganda, tarnish the name of Uganda, provoke a situation where Uganda might want to withdraw, provoke a situation where Uganda loses credibility, the process collapses, confusion continues and they continue gaining."
He has a key message for Kabila. "The government of DRC has got to get its act together, it should stop blaming others for problems in its country," Oryem said, "It should form a strong army and take control and charge of eastern DRC. It should be capable of controlling eastern DRC and not allow all these negative forces, all these thugs to move up and down in eastern DRC."
At the various ICGLR heads of state summits, this message was spelt out clearly for Kabila. The other heads of state were not happy with Kabila who they says is weak and has failed to take charge of this breeding ground for all sorts of rebel groups, which are a threat to regional security.
For Uganda alone, there is Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Rwanda also complains about the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)--a rebel outfit whose leadership is it accuses of atrocities in the 1994 genocide.
President Paul Kagame made this clear in an interview with Time magazine in which he said his relationship with Kabila had been "gradually eroded."
"... Kabila is used to playing games and the international community entertains that and plays games with him," Time quoted Kagame, "They tell you one thing and mean something else. We have been talking and trying to find a solution. At the same time, he was sending emissaries all over the world to abuse us."
But apart from Kabila, some critics have attacked the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), saying that those behind it could be having a hand in this international blame game. Despite spending over a decade in Congo and consuming the UN's biggest budget, US $9 billion since 1999, it continues to be in Congo without achieving any tangible results. Women continue to be raped; several are murdered and maimed with MONUSCO as a spectator, abuser of human rights and sometimes, a rebel supporter.
MUNUSCO was established by resolutions 1279 (1999) and 1291 (2000) of the United Nations Security Council to monitor the peace process of the Second Congo War, but it later shifted focus to the Ituri conflict and the Kivu conflict.
Earlier this year, Rwandan legislators unanimously condemned and called on the UN to investigate MONUSCO following reports that the mission group had been supporting top commanders of the DRC-based rebel group, FDLR, whose members are accused of playing a part in the 1994 Genocide.
MONUSCO denied the allegations but officials in Rwanda stated that some FDLR defectors had indicated that MONUSCO severally bailed out the rebels with food supplies among others.
At the height of the conflict, Oryem while addressing diplomats in Kampala about the outcomes of one of the Heads of State Summit said the ICGLR has lost faith in MONUSCO.
"If it (MONUSCO) was doing its job with its large numbers and budget, I don't think we would still have the crisis in the DRC today," Oryem said.
In the interview with The Independent, he castigated the fact that no audit has ever been done on MONUSCO and what it does in DRC, yet "innocent Uganda" that has exhibited the capacity to stop M23 and pacify Congo is being thanked by maligning it and putting its name in the mad.
Because of this, Uganda has threatened to withdraw its troops from all its peace keeping missions.
"Yes, we made it very clear, this is not a secret," Oryem told The Independent, "we are reviewing our entire international engagement in the region in enforcing peace, bringing stability in the region, we are re-examining it as our foreign policy."
In particular, Uganda would be re-examining interests in Burundi, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic and Somalia, where it has peacekeeping forces. To make this position clear, Oryem said that Uganda sent a special envoy Ruhakana Rugunda to meet the Secretary General and present it to him.