Uganda is still grappling with how to win DRC again

Author: Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • My unsolicited advice is to broaden the engagement and place business at the centre of the DRC-Uganda relations.

On March 24, I published a facebook post reading like this: Kabineti Lishafo in Kinshasa… But this is an anti-Rwanda and anti-Tutsi cabinet. Jean Pierre Bemba (Defence), Vital Kamerhe (Economic Affairs), Mbusa Nyamwisi (National Integration) and Asuman Bisiika (Minister for Dirty Tricks and Witchery on Uganda-Rwanda Affairs).
Dear reader, the inclusion of my name on the cabinet list in Kinshasa was a joke whose only objective was to add entertainment value. But the names of the new cabinet ministers I mentioned (and the remark that these men were anti-Rwanda) are curious. It is my personal opinion that these names are pointers to President Felix Tshisekedi’s two political projections namely: the December 20 presidential elections and the M23 menace in Nord Kivu Province.
The new cabinet is clearly President Tshekedi’s attempt at national integration (particularly bringing some northerners) into the fold. Please note that since the ouster of president Mobutu (a northerner), the north has in a very subtle way been politically marginalised. Since Mobutu left, the tussle for political leadership in Kinshasa has been between the two Kasai provinces and Katanga (all the three provinces in the south).
And his adoption or co-option of politicians close to the opposition actors like Moise Katumbi would hold president Tshisekedi in good stead as he seeks re-election in the elections scheduled for December 20 this year. Holding a ministerial position, it can be assumed that a man like Jean Pierre Bemba would not challenge his boss in December.
And given the security situation of Nord Kivu Province, the Congolese population will more likely be interested in peace than the politics of popularity. President Tshisekedi, in spite the portrayal of being a crybaby by many observers, will expect to be rewarded for the handling of the M23 in an abrasive diplomatic coup against Rwanda. The population is likely to reward him for the way he has minimised the disaster M23 has done to his country.
A recent photo in which the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) was shaking hands with Congolese  minister for Defence has been circulating on social media.
When the cabinet reshuffle in Kinshasa was made public and names like that of Mbusa Nyamwisi and Jean Pierre Bemba appeared on the cabinet list, the buzz on our WhatsApp kafunda was that Uganda would be in business in Kinshasa. I cautioned them against blind optimism. I even related a story about how Mbusa Nyamwisi was arrested and held in Uganda until the intervention of the Number One himself.
I told them that Uganda will have to work out a new friendship based on mutual interest other than thinking they will start where they stopped with people like Bemba and Nyamwisi. Actors and interests may have changed in the intervening period. Plus: whereas Nyamwisi and Bemba were principals when Uganda dealt with them during the war, they now serve president Tshisekedi as the main man.
From our contacts in Kinshasa, we have learnt that the meeting of the CDF of the UPDF and the Congolese minister for Defence was merely a courtesy call. There was no business discussed. And the bombshell: Bemba’s body language was not warm.
On their return, our information is that the CDF and his entourage are even said to have flown from Kinshasa to Beni in eastern DRC from where they travelled by road to return to Uganda via Kasese. Uganda will have to do more to regain the confidence of the Congolese. My unsolicited advice is to broaden the engagement and place business at the centre of the DRC-Uganda relations

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]