The chief of defence forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, recently revealed that the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are re-organising and recruiting to attack Uganda. Joshua Kato talked to him about the threat
Is Uganda preparing for war?
We are always prepared. Even when ADF first attacked Uganda in 1996, we fought them until they were as good as defeated. We even entered the DRC and dealt with the remnants in 1999. We also took charge of the Rwenzori Mountains and flushed them out.
However, when we left the DRC in 2003, they started re-organising around North and South Kivu. They are currently occupying areas around Eringeti, which is 90kms from the Ugandan border and other areas that are just 60kms from the border.
They have a fighting force of around 600 fighters under arms and they are organised in fighting formations, just like an army. And we are sure they are recruiting and organising to come back here and cause chaos.
We have got reports that they are recruiting in Mayuge, Iganga, Bugiri, Hoima and Arua. Their top commanders include Jamil Mukulu, Hood Lukwago, Amis Kasadha, Musa Baluku, Mohammed Kayiira, Filipo Bogere, and Jamil Muzzanganda.
But are they such a big threat?
Oh yes! There is very clear evidence that they are working with their cells inside Uganda to eliminate Muslim leaders across the country. On the border though, we have done much to stop them from carrying out any attacks.
Why would they kill Muslim leaders?
Some are being killed for refusing to support the ADF cause, others for deserting the rebellion and returning back home, while others are killed after receiving money to channel to the ADF, but they divert it for their selfish interests.
But the Lusaka Agreement of 2003 was supposed to deal with 'negative' forces in the DRC; how did ADF survive?
If the resolutions of that agreement had been implemented, the ADF would have been no more by now.
Foreign forces were deployed in the DRC for that purpose, but they had a very weak mandate of peace-keeping.
For us, we continued sharing intelligence with the DRC on the actual location of the ADF in DRC, but they did not act on them. That was the situation until this M23 issue came up.
What about the initiative by regional leaders to bring peace to the DRC? Will it succeed this time round?
Yes, I have hope in this initiative. Because of the M23, regional defence chiefs proposed at least 4,000 soldiers as the required force to deal with the M23 and other negative forces in the DRC. The MONUC model failed because the peacekeepers were far detached from the reality on the ground. Some were got from Latin America-from countries like Guatemala-and others from Nepal and India. They could not speak the language of the locals, which affected their operations. Their mandate was also largely peace-keeping rather than enforcing peace.
If this initiative fails, will UPDF enter DRC to flush out ADF?
If the DRC invites us, we shall go. But, we have confidence in this initiative. We have successful regional initiatives to copy from. For example, people thought Burundi would never have peace, but the regional initiative there has succeeded. The same with South-Sudan and Somalia. The deploying countries have got a lot to share with DRC including languages and that is a recipe for success.
Which countries have promised to deploy troops and logistics?
Tanzania has offered a battalion and a force commander. I know that their peace-keeping battalion is about 800 soldiers. DRC itself has offered $20m. This is a good beginning and the mission will grow as time goes on. In Somalia, we went in first. Now Burundi, Kenya and other countries are on board.
Why isn't Uganda part of the troop contributing countries?
It is largely because of the unfounded allegations by the so called UN experts and some elements in the DRC that we are supporting M23 rebels. We are not in DRC. Instead, we have done a lot to bring peace there. Our President is the chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and that is why regional heads of state talks have been held in Uganda. Crispus Kiyonga, the defence minister, is the chairman of the regional ministers of defence and I am the chairman of the chief of defence forces committee that is pushing for a peaceful initiative in DRC.