Why is there no official reaction from Kigali on Uganda’s military incursion into DR Congo?
Kigali has not formally reacted on Uganda’s military incursion into DR Congo, generating a lot of uncertainties about Rwanda’s future steps.
In what became known as the “First Congo War,” Uganda and Rwanda invaded DR Congo in 1996-1997, joined by several other former African guerrilla movements under the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), and deposed the country’s long-serving president, Mobutu Sese Seko, and replaced him with Laurent Kabila.
Following the disagreement with Kabila and other former AFDL coalition members, the couple began a second insurrection in 1998, this time with the goal of deposing Kabila. Uganda and Rwanda sent hundreds of troops in eastern DR Congo at the same time as part of cooperative military operations.
However, unlike the first war, in which a massive amount of preparation went into assembling the pan-African coalition that supported the AFDL, assuring its astonishing victory, the second war was a multi-pronged event that was badly organized, both politically and tactically.
As a consequence, conflicts between Rwanda and Uganda arose in 1999-2000, resulting in multiple skirmishes, particularly in Kisangani. The forces of the two erstwhile allies came face to face, and it is believed that 3,000 civilians and 1,000 military personnel died as a consequence of the combat.
Since the conclusion of the war, the two nations’ relationship has never been the same. As a result, when Uganda reported deploying soldiers into eastern DR Congo to chase the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group accused for recent bombings in Uganda, many analysts feared new confrontations with Rwanda.
Uganda’s State Minister for International Affairs, Henry Oryem Okello, recently said that he met with Rwandan officials and informed them on Uganda’s actions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The beauty is that Rwandans are aware of what is going on on the ground,” he said.
They have excellent intelligence, and I am certain that they have intelligence on the ground. I don’t believe it is in Rwanda’s best interests to challenge the UPDF at this moment.”
However, as of the time of writing, Kigali has not formally reacted on Uganda’s military incursion into DR Congo, generating a lot of uncertainties about Rwanda’s future steps.
Both nations have recently swapped allegations, with Rwanda accusing Uganda of backing armed organizations opposed to it, notably the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is also active in eastern DR Congo. Similarly, Uganda has accused Rwanda of having ties to the ADF.
While these charges have not been independently proven, they have added to the already existing tensions, and there are now worries that Rwanda may also choose to join DR Congo.
These concerns may not be unfounded, as Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in May, “We will also stand beside the DRC for any steps put in place to enhance security in the east of its territory, which borders our nation.”
Given their growing hostility, if both nations are admitted into DR Congo, it might mean disaster for DR Congo and the whole Great Lakes area. For decades, DR Congo has been utilized as a breeding ground for rebel operations, and some of the rebel organizations are reported to have the support of DR Congo’s neighbors.
Perhaps, given the circumstances, putting Ugandan soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the superior choice (I’m not sure!) for containing the terror threats posed by the ADF. According to media reports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ugandan army, together with their Congolese colleagues, look to be making significant progress since their deployment.
To avert a full-fledged regional security crisis and increased diplomatic difficulties with Rwanda, Uganda should have a well-planned military policy that includes elements of leniency, reconciliation, and negotiation.
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