Rwanda is flabbergasted by reports in Ugandan media claiming that the Rwandan government was furious over Uganda’s refusal to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between countries in the great lakes region to carry out joint operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ugandan tabloids linked to the government reported that Rwandan representatives were not impressed during the meeting which took place on October 25-26, in the DR Congo city of Goma, which brought together Chiefs of Defence Staff from Rwanda, DRC, Uganda and Burundi as well as representatives of US AFRICOM and MONUSCO.
The meeting is part of the many meetings laying strategies to rout active rebel groups in the Eastern part of the mineral rich country in order to create a lasting solution to the insecurity in the area in the coming months.
Ugandan tabloids claimed that, Uganda which was represented by the Chief of Land Forces, Gen Peter Elwelu, refused to pen the MoU, to the chagrin of Rwanda.
It has since emerged that there was no such an incident nor was there a standoff around Uganda’s refusal to sign. Ugandan media now faces accusations of ‘politicizing’ region efforts to eliminate negative groups and fully restore peace in the great lakes region.
According to the Military and Defence spokesperson Lt. Col Innocent Munyengango, talks during the second meeting went on in a cordial manner, wondering why efforts to pacify the region are now being politicized by the Ugandan media the intentions behind the reports.
“The meetings are part of the initiative of the DRC Head of State which was supported by other regional Heads of State. A framework to totally eradicate all Active Groups in Eastern DRC was set up,”
“A meeting of representatives of Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC), Rwanda (RDF), Uganda (UPDF), Burundi (FDNB) and partners from MONUSCO and USAFRICOM, was convened. Tanzania (TPDF) was excused because they were not able to attend,” a summary report of the meeting seen by KT Press reads.
It is further noted that the first meeting took place in Goma from October 13 to 14, while the second meeting convened last week on Thursday and Friday.
Very little information trickled out of the meetings which are closed to the media. It is not clear how Ugandan tabloids were able to come up with the allegations that Uganda and Rwanda disagreed over Kampala’s refusal to sign.
“The meeting was conducted in a friendly atmosphere, mutual understanding and sincere exchange of ideas,” Lt Col Munyengango told KT Press, adding that the Ugandan representative did not sign because they wanted to make further consultations, which is very ok with Rwanda.
“The meetings are still an ongoing process. We have not got to a point of talking about operations. I don’t understand why anybody would allege that we were angry. Why would we be angry?” Munyengango noted.
According to outcomes of the first meeting, it was agreed that an Integrated headquarter for the operations is established in Goma. It is from here that the operations would be coordinated.
The second meeting last week was opened by Lieutenant-General Célestin Mbala Munsense, the Chief of Staff of the Congolese government forces FARDC during which it was confirmed that the headquarters for the operations to neutralize negative groups in DRC would be set up in Goma.
At this point, dates for the operations are yet to be decided. All the parties are expected to meet again soon but dates are yet to be confirmed.
The planned operations in DRC, which were announced by President Felix Tshisekedi in June, have attracted both praise and criticism, with political analysts arguing that they could provide a lasting solution to the violence in Eastern DRC while some like MONUSCO fear that it could lead to a full scale war.
Former Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s coalition Common Front for Congo (FCC) also opposed the planned attacks, expressing concerns that it could be an opportunity for armies from regional countries to settle scores.
President Tshisekedi said the operations would be “large-scale” military operations targeting active groups in North and South Kivu. The U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) and MONUSCO were in attendance. However reports say MONUSCO is opposed to the operations.
The United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) Leila Zerrougui said the UN peacekeeping mission would not support the operations.
“We do not have a mandate to support foreign forces coming to the DRC. That will be a decision between the DRC and these troops,” Zerrougui said in one of the documents from the meeting.
“I insist. The best way to fight against armed groups is not to start a war, it is to be able to put the pressure, actually military, on armed groups but it is necessary to attack the root causes,” she added.
However, President Tshisekedi said he would stop at nothing in his efforts to pacify the eastern part of the country which has been ravaged by conflict and violence for more than two decades.
MONUSCO, which has been present in DRC since 1999, has been faulted for failure to stop the violence and restore peace in Eastern DRC, despite billions of dollars in expenditure annually.
Several Rwandan subversive groups including P5, FNL and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), among others, remain active in DRC.