President Museveni, with other regional heads-of-state, met this Monday in Nairobi for the 3rd Heads of State Conclave on the peace and security situation in the Democratic Republic Congo(DRC), the newest member of the East African Community (EAC). This meeting follows the ongoing rebel activity by the M23 rebels, one of more than 120 armed rebel groups in DRC who struck again. Congolese soldiers and thousands of refugees have so far fled into Uganda’s Bunagana town in Kisoro district.
In Congo’s capital Kinshasa, North Kivu province, and Goma town, Congolese nationals came out in protest against Uganda and Rwanda, accusing both nations of supporting the M23 rebels. This forced DRC’s Parliament to suspend the joint military operation against ADF rebels in DRC-code named Operation Shujaa.
Among the outcomes of the meeting hosted in Nairobi, one of the most notable resolves was the immediate deployment of a regional standby force to stabilize and secure the peace in the DRC. The Regional Force shall be deployed to the Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces.
Even though the DRC government hailed the proposal, it snubbed Rwanda’s participation in the force. Conspicuously, majority of the people residing in conflict-ridden eastern region of DRC have fearfully reacted to the proposed deployment of a regional force with wariness and suspicion.
SecretsKnown believes that this suspicion is founded upon Congo’s history with neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi who caused havoc, destabilization, and wreckage in the eastern region of the country between 1998 to 2003.
They believe that this deployment has a hidden motive questioning how a regional force can succeed where MONUSCO (The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) was unsuccessful.
Many Ugandans also worry that under the pretext of a regional force, there could be a repetition of the mayhem caused by Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) in DRC since Ugandan troops would be part of the regional force formation.
Wondering how this conflict affects Uganda’s economy? Recall last year, President Museveni and DRC president Felix Tshisekedi commissioned collaborative construction work of a 223 kilometer road at $330 million in the DRC and also set up the Mpondwe bridge in Kasese district to enhance trade and integration.
This conflict is most probably going to disrupt the road project. What then happens to the partial investment Uganda has already made given that the construction began in December 2021?
And there’s more Uganda has to lose. Early this week, the DRC suspended all cross-border trade via the Bunangana border which has now been captured by the M23 rebels. By January 2022, Uganda’s exports to DRC were at $71 million and were expected to reach $1 billion in 12 months according to Congo’s ambassador to ug Jean Pierre Masala. The cross-border trade suspension will most definitely bruise Uganda’s trade with Congo which is Uganda’s largest trading partner in the region.
SecretsKnown has been running a weekly countdown on the time left Uganda has to begin payment of reparations worth $325 million to DRC for the atrocities committed in the Eastern mineral-rich province of Ituri between 1998 and 2003 as ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
It is now less than 9 weeks left, for Uganda’s first installment payment of $65 million in September which is to be paid annually over the next 5 years.
There was no mention of these reparations in the country’s budget that was presented early this month and with the country’s quivering economy and looming debt burden that stands at about $20.8 billion, many question where the money will come from. Keep in mind that failure to pay the annual installment will attract a six percent interest fine annually as per the ICJ the court ruling. Bothersome, isn’t it?