Uganda lists arms, troops in ADF fight

Generals commanding Operation Shujaa meet Maj Gen Muhanga Kayanja (right) at Hotel Kasindi in DR Congo. Photo / Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • In a diplomatic note to the UN Security Council, Kampala details rank and number of military personnel, and equipment by type and numbers, deployed in the joint offensive to flush out members of the rebel-cum-terrorist group hiding in eastern Congo.

Uganda has written to the United Nations Security Council, detailing numbers and ranks of its troops involved in the offence against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

 Also included in the December 23, 2021 note verbale from Uganda’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is information about Uganda’s military hardware by type and numbers as well as infantry and air force support weapons.

 It is noted that the troops entered DRC through Busunga and Nobili border posts on Ugandan and Congolese side, respectively, and will “depart at a mutually agreed date between the two countries and all [the] arms [deployed] will be repatriated”.

 The inventory report, circulated to the UN Security Council members on December 29, was addressed to Abdou Abarry, Niger envoy to the UN, who chairs the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the DRC.

 The UN Security Council amended its 2004 resolution, which followed a multi-African country protracted war in DRC, ignited by a joint Uganda-Rwanda invasion in 1998, in 2008 to remove the Kinshasa government from the arms embargo list.

 The DRC sued and won a case against Uganda at the International Court of Justice, as the UN court is formally called, demanding $10b (Shs36t) in compensation for plunder of DRC natural resources and rights abuses.

Kampala has contested the fine as exorbitant, and the court’s verdict on Uganda’s appeal to reduce the amount is expected any time.

 The legal gymnastics emanating from a case filed by a previous regime notwithstanding, the current Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi struck an understanding with President Museveni, permitting a joint military offensive against ADF described in international security circles as a rebel-cum-terrorist group.

 UPDF, supported by Congolese military, launched Operation Shujaa, or Courage, in North Kivu province on November 30, but without formally notifying the UN Security Council as required by the 2008 resolution and obligation of individual member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to comply with the Council decisions.

 Highly-placed sources told Daily Monitor that Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, flagged the procedural and diplomatic lapse to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala on December 3.

 In his letter to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Vincent Bagiire, Ambassador Ayebare reiterated Uganda’s obligation to report about its personnel and military hardware, including arms and ammunitions, employed in the DRC operation.

 He informed his supervisors, alongside the principal private secretary to the President, the Defence ministry permanent secretary, the solicitor general and Foreign Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, that in their notice to the UN Security Council, Uganda would require to:

 “Ask the exemptions regarding weapons and personnel involved in the joint operations with the DRC armed forces in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions that imposed an arms embargo on DRC.”

 This alert reportedly triggered a flurry of activities across government, in part because some top security commanders were opposed to specifying capabilities deployed in DRC, fearing an information leak could expose UPDF troops on the ground and render them vulnerable to enemy fire.  

  Part 5 of the UN Security Council Resolution 1807 (2008) states: “… all states shall notify in advance to the Committee [on DRC arms embargo], any shipment of arms and related material for the Democratic Republic of Congo, or any provision of assistance, or advice or training related to military activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo…and stresses that such notifications contain all relevant information, including, where appropriate, the end-user, the proposed date of delivery and the itinerary of shipments”.

 This newspaper has obtained the full inventory of the equipment and personnel, among them about four dozen senior officers, but it is withholding the details for the safety of the commanders and troops involved in the ongoing military operation.

 Asked yesterday about the rationale of Uganda’s notification of the UN Security Council after launching the attacks, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare said:  “We were fulfilling the requirements at our volition, as required by the [UN] Security Council resolutions on arms embargo on DRC. Uganda is committed to fulfilling its obligations under a rules-based international order.”

 In a rejoinder to Uganda’s diplomatic note, Ambassador Abarry, wrote:  “…the committee has asked that I convey its appreciation to your government for its continued efforts towards the full implementation of the sanctions regime [on DRC] and for providing the Committee with information relevant to its mandate”.

 Uganda’s formal notification follows a briefing by President Museveni, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to diplomats in Kampala representing countries that are members of the UN Security Council.

 State House sources said the envoys at the time unanimously accepted the President’s explanation about the security threats necessitating the offensive, but that he faced tough questioning about guarantees that allegations of rights abuses and pillaging by Ugandan troops would not recur.