East Africa: UPDF Rejects Call for Joint Military Operation in DRC

Protesters at the UN base in Beni.
25 November 2019

Top military and intelligence officers from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and DR Congo last month failed to reach an agreement for a joint military operation to fight different rebel groups operating in eastern DRC.

According to a military source who attended the meeting on October 25 in the eastern Congolese town of Beni, the plan to have the joint military offensive against the armed groups was proposed by DRC government and supported by Rwanda but the other countries were reluctant to endorse the move.

At the meeting Uganda was represented by the Commander of Land Forces, Gen Peter Elwelu and the 2nd Division Commander Brig Kayanja Muhanga.

The meeting was also attended by USA and United Nations officials.

According to security sources, the plan was to have the United States provide intelligence, Uganda would provide air power and artillery while Rwanda's Special Forces, who are already in DR Congo on a bilateral arrangement, would carry out special operations.

However, the plan collapsed when Uganda declined to be part of the joint operations.

Various rebel groups have found safe haven in the vast forested eastern DR Congo where they have caused lawlessness and anarchy.

Security sources who attended the Beni meeting say the UPDF delegation said Uganda would confine its troops at her border with DR Congo without crossing but Rwanda and DR Congo called for a joint operation.

The spokesperson of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), which oversees US military operations in Africa, confirmed the meeting and said their military attaché in Kinshasa attended.

Ms Desiree Frame told Daily Monitor that the US supports the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo and military-to-military engagements that would bring peace in the region. "The US Defence attaché to U.S Embassy Kinshasa attended the regional security summit last month on behalf of AFRICOM to better understand how the stakeholders intend to provide peace and security in the region," she said, "AFRICOM supports UN peacekeeping and military-to-military engagement that enhance the security capabilities of our partners in the African Great Lakes"

AFRICOM is based in Stuttgart, Germany with its Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, the only U.S permanent base in Africa.

Rwanda position

Last week, President Kagame told a press conference in Kigali that it is a good idea to have joint operations to fight rebels in DR Congo.

"The President of Congo came up with this idea. There have been efforts to have meetings and work with the UN in Congo. So they came up with a formula on how to work together," he said.

President Kagame said each country was supposed to play a role during the joint military operation.

"The best way is not to do it alone. Each country was supposed to raise what it was concerned with," Mr Kagame said.

Last month, suspected Rwandan rebels with bases in eastern DR Congo killed eight people and wounded 18 in Musanze District which attracts tourists because of its Volcanoes National Park and its mountain gorillas.

After the Beni meeting, Ms Leila Zerrougui, the head of the United Nations DR Congo peacekeeping mission MONUSCO was quoted by AFP that they would not support intervention of foreign troops. She said their mandate is to support the Congolese army.

The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, told Daily Monitor that UPDF would safeguard the country from within Ugandan territory but would be willing to work with DR Congo on a bilateral arrangement.

"UPDF will continue securing the Uganda border against infiltration by any undesirable negative elements while on a bilateral arrangement will keep engaging the DRC government on cooperation to eliminate ADF terrorists," he said.

It is not clear what President Museveni agreed with his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi during their closed meeting at State House Entebbe last month but a few days after his return to Kinshasa, the Congolese army launched an offensive against Ugandan rebels Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DRC and inflicted many casualties on the insurgents.

In retaliation, ADF killed 14 civilians on November 16 in Beni.

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