On 30th November, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) together with the Congolese army FARDC launched joint operations aimed at eliminating the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for good from the jungles of Eastern Congo.

Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga

The operations were not approved by parliament according the laws of the land neither did government inform parliament with the said 72 hours. However, many Ugandans perceived the operations as a move by Uganda to loot Congolese minerals being a mineral hub.

The belief that Uganda is using the operations as a pretext to steal Congo’s minerals like Gold, Timber, Diamond among others is picked from the last time Ugandan army went to Congo and ended up stealing. This landed the Pearl of Africa in trouble was ordered to pay a huge amount of Cash to the mineral rich country on earth.

The last batch of UPDF soldiers return to Uganda May 19, 2003, through the town of Goli after withdrawing from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri region-AFP photo

It should be remembered that on Monday 19th December 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Uganda to pay reparations to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the five-year occupation of the it’s territory.

The UN’s highest judicial body ruled that Uganda’s 1998-2003 intervention violated international soveirenity and led to killing and torture of civilians and the destruction of villages.

The court upheld Congo’s claim that it had been the victim of unlawful military intervention, though it did not find a deliberate policy of terror. Kinshasa welcomed the ruling and said it would see $6-10bn in compensation, an estimate that court said it would be appropriate.

The then and still Uganda’s minister of foreign minister, Okello Oryem told press the ruling was unfair. “We went in Congo to pursue rebels; we were not the only people in Congo.”

More than 3 million died in fighting which spawned myriad Congolese militias and rebel groups and sucked in armies from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Foreign forces would later widthdraw after accord paved the way for Congo’s then fragile peace.

“By the conduct of it’s armed forces, which committed acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the Congolese civilian population…[Uganda] violated it’s obligations under international human rights law” Shi Jiuyong, president of the 17-member court based at The Hague said in the judgement. It said Ugandan forces deployed child soldiers, stirred ethnic tension and stole natural resources.

Exactly 16 years after the ICJ ruling and Kampala having not paid a single shilling on the $10 billion claiming they are still negotiating with Kinshasa. Kampala is back in Congo constructing roads and another mission to eliminate the rebels whom it says are behind the recent bombings in the capital that have claimed 8 people.

While speaking to media at the frontline of the jungles specifically Mukakati a temporary base where the Ugandan army has settled in the middle of the forest in DRC’s Beni territory, UPDF’s commander of the mountain Division Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga who is also leading the operations yesterday said that UPDF is in Congo to restore peace not to steal minerals.

Referring to the memorandum signed by the two armies that guides the objective of these ongoing operations, he promised that UPDF and FARDC will do their best within the framework of this memorandum to the sufferings of their people from the violence inflicted by the ADF rebels.

Responding to the question raised by some organizations and several Ugandans against the deployment forces in the DRC, Muhanga reassured that Uganda has no hideen agenda behind these operations which simply consist of hunting down and eliminating the ADF rebels.

“I do not bring with me machines that consist in exploiting any wealth of the DRC. Our presence of the Congolese soil justifies against the rebels in order to bring peace between our countries. We are not interested in the exploitation of minerals or any trade. It is clear”, he insisted.

Muhanga also downplayed what he called propaganda leveled against the operations which he said are only aimed at diverting the attention and support of the two countries and re-iterated that it’s only ADF that brought them to Congo not stealing.

“We have only brought our souls, and we are focused on the complete destruction of the ADF rebels. No one is going to distract us from the main objectives. And in order to succeed, we need everyone during this operation.”-Muhanda added

Additional reporting by Xhinua News