The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has asked President Museveni to explain how the deployment of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo will benefit Uganda.
Last week, 5,000 UPDF soldiers led by Col Michael Walaka Hyeroba were flagged off for the mission in the troubled Rutshuru territory of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In a statement issued a day after the deployment, President Museveni stated that the UPDF would fight any player in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who refuses to implement or adhere to the peace agreement signed by the leaders of the East African Community (EAC).
Mr John Kikonyogo, the deputy spokesperson, told journalists at their Najjanankumbi offices that in Museveni’s statement, he (Museveni) indicated that the UPDF had gone to stabilise some parts of Congo, specifically Goma.
“The country should remember that Mr Museveni and some senior UPDF officers were taken to the International Court of Justice in 1997 and 1998 for allegedly stealing DRC resources.” “Congo won the court case, and the Court ruled that we pay Congo $325 million, or Shs1.1 trillion,” Mr Kikonyogo explained.
He claimed that over Shs90 billion was spent on Operation Shuja, an operation that was never sanctioned by Parliament and provided no clear benefits to Uganda, resulting in accumulated debts.
“We demand to hear from Parliament how Uganda benefits from these deployments in Congo, especially given that the country spends taxpayers’ money annually to deploy and maintain these illegal troops in Congo,” Mr Kikonyongo said.
Uganda’s deployment comes just two weeks after Angola sent 500 troops to the same area. Uganda’s troops will serve as observers, but President Museveni announced last week that, with the approval of the EAC heads of state, Uganda will crack the whip “if one of the stakeholders refuses to implement the peace agreement we have agreed on.”
Mr Museveni was quick to point out in his statement that the UPDF’s presence in the Bunagana-Rutshuru area is not intended to “fight the M23, but to act as a neutral force while the Congolese use the time to sort out their political problems.”
“Unless we are attacked, we will not fight,” President Museveni emphasised.
Legislators in 2021 tasked the government with providing a clear report on the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) military incursion into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), claiming Mr Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, did not seek Parliament’s approval as required by the Constitution.
“We need a statement on that, and the government should come out clean (on the matter),” said Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, who presided over the plenary.
Despite initial enthusiasm, many Congolese are increasingly critical of the EAC force due to dashed hopes that regional troops would directly confront the M23.
Captain Kato Ahmad Hassan, the spokesman for the newly deployed Ugandan contingent, stated on Sunday that the troops will be a “neutral force, and we will not fight the M23.”
According to the plan, M23 fighters are expected to withdraw from areas occupied by the Ugandan military.
The rebel group still controls large parts of North Kivu and has almost surrounded Goma, which borders Rwanda to the east and Lake Kivu to the south.
The DRC accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of supporting the M23, which the US, several other Western countries, and independent UN experts agree on but Kigali denies.
Although there hasn’t been major fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 in several weeks, there has been fighting with rival militias and insecurity remains high.
Fourteen people were killed in separate attacks in North Kivu over the weekend, according to residents, local officials, and medical sources, in circumstances that remain unknown.