UPDF awaits Congo permission to launch offensive against ADF

Then Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala (centre), with chief of general staff of the Armed Forces of the DR Congo (FARDC) Lt Gen Didier Etumba Longila (left), and FARDC Gen Leon Mushale (R) in Beni in North Kivu on May 7, 2014. Gen Katumba and Lt Gen Etumba were visiting troops taking part in a military operation against ADF rebels in the area.  PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Government says the  UPDF will ensure minimal casualties of children and women who are in the ADF ranks.

The DR Congo will allow Ugandan troops to carry out military operations against the Allied Democratic Front armed group in the east of the country, the AFP news agency reported yesterday.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello said on KFM’s Hot Seat programme yesterday that while he was yet to confirm the authorisation, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces was ready for the operation.

“One thing I can assure you is, it will be effective and precise,” Mr Oryem said. “The ADF will not be there to tell the story but those who will do the mop-up later will tell you the story of a job well done by the UPDF after we have finished with them.”

Daily Monitor reported last week that Uganda was rallying the international community and the DRC government to allow it to cross the border in pursuit of ADF rebels it blames for a series of recent deadly terror attacks in Kampala. 

At least 10 people were killed in four separate improvised explosive device blasts within the last month.

Why the delay
Last week, Mr Oryem explained they delayed in carrying out retaliatory attacks on the alleged perpetrators in ADF.
 “You need legitimacy. You can’t just rush into someone’s land. However, we have the right to hot pursuit and self-defence,” he said. 

Mr Oryem said yesterday the UPDF would ensure minimal casualties of children and women, who are within the ADF ranks, once it crosses the border.

He said earlier this month that DRC’s Foreign Affairs minister and senior military officials visited Kampala to discuss removing children from the ADF ranks to deradicalise them.

He said the DRC leadership has obtained enough evidence about ADF’s recruitment and radicalisation as well as the dangers of allowing it to continue operating in the east of the country.

“Kinshasa government is fully aware of their presence hence they agree with us that we need to eliminate these people as soon as possible,” he said. 

The minister also accused the ADF of having a hand in the attack by M23 rebel fighters on the Congolese army near the border with Uganda on November 8.

In response to news reports about the pending deployment of the UPDF in eastern DRC, Ms Tina Salama, the deputy spokesperson for Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi, tweeted in French: “The best would be (would have been) to wait for the official declaration of the Congolese government which will intervene shortly to clarify the situation.” [Translation ours – Editor].

Brig Flavia Byekwaso, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence and UPDF, yesterday said they are yet to receive official communication about DRC authorising Ugandan troops to cross the border.  “We are also hearing about this authorisation of Uganda troops to carry out operations in DRC in the press,” she said.

A joint force of Ugandan and Rwandan troops invaded Zaire, as DRC was then officially known, in 1997 and enabled Congolese forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila to topple President Mobutu Sese Seko.

The intervention was marred by controversy after the two allies turned guns on each other and hundreds of thousands of Congolese died in the fighting. 

The DRC government later sued Uganda for plunder at the International Court of Justice, which awarded Kinshasa damages of $10 billion. The matter is yet to be resolved.

Following a formal withdrawal of its troops in 2003, two years after Kabila’s assassination and succession by his son, Joseph Kabila, Uganda again deployed in DRC with Kinshasa’s authorisation under the African Union Regional Task Force to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

In December 2008, the UPDF launched Operation Lightning Thunder, which dislodged Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels from Garamba National Park in northeast DRC, scattering them to the Central African Republic, Chad and the mineral-rich Kafia Kingi enclave at the Sudan-South Sudan-CAR frontier where Kony is reportedly hiding. With the LRA threat diminished, Uganda said the ADF, long reported beaten, regrouped and re-emerged stronger, prompting a surprise and targeted December 2017 air raid by Uganda People’s Defence Air Force on the latter’s positions in eastern DRC. 

However, despite these operations, the threat of subversive groups against Uganda, according to intelligence agencies, has continued to multiply in eastern DRC that President Museveni last Saturday evening said is “ungoverned”.

The latest rebel group reported to have been formed, with bases in eastern DRC, is Uganda Homeland Liberation Force, a dozen of whose alleged commanders, including Howard Openjuru, have since been arrested from Zombo, Njeru and Kampala.

UPDF’s battles in DRC

In December 2008, the UPDF launched Operation Lightning Thunder, which dislodged Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels from Garamba National Park in northeast DRC, scattering them to the Central African Republic, Chad and the mineral-rich Kafia Kingi enclave at the Sudan-South Sudan-CAR frontier where Kony is reportedly hiding.

With the LRA threat diminished, Uganda said the ADF, long reported beaten, regrouped and re-emerged stronger, prompting a surprise and targeted December 2017 air raid by Uganda People’s Defence Air Force on the latter’s positions in eastern DRC. 

However, despite these operations, the threat of subversive groups against Uganda, according to intelligence agencies, has continued to multiply in eastern DRC that President Museveni last Saturday evening said is “ungoverned”.

The latest rebel group reported to have been formed, with bases in eastern DRC, is Uganda Homeland Liberation Force, a dozen of whose alleged commanders, including Howard Openjuru, have since been arrested from Zombo, Njeru and Kampala.

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