JINJA – There are critical comments among the academic and intellectual communities worldwide that in the late 1990s, both Rwanda and Uganda invaded the DR Congo, not so much to contain the rebel groups as claimed but as a profiteering venture.
However, Rwanda and Uganda, which invaded Congo in 1998, said they remained true to their declared objective: to topple Congo’s President, Laurent Desire Kabila and clear their border areas of hostile forces under his patronage.
They claimed Kabila was harbouring rebel forces in eastern Congo that tried to destabilize their governments. It did not take long before Kabila was assassinated and replaced by his son, Ugandan-born Joseph Kabila.
According to The Christian Science Monitor of Kisangani, Congo, in its article “Behind the Congo War: Diamonds” of August 16, 1999 by Lara Santoro, the armies of Rwanda and Uganda pitched their tents – hundreds of miles away from home for the diamonds, the gold, the timber, and the palm oil. “This is a war of plunder, of loot, of exploitation.”, the article asserted. if it were true that the two were united in purpose, said The Christian Science Monitor, then relations between them would be less turbulent, and the uneasy cease-fire that was signed should have held.
But troops from Rwanda and Uganda, which shared control of Kisangani, traded gunfire for the first time in what came to be known as Kisangani I. The Christian Science Monitor reported that Rwandan commanders accused Uganda of trying to take control of the Kisangani airport where daily flights arrive with troops and supplies. Citing R. Mokeni Ekopi Kane, the President of the Federation of Congolese Enterprises in Kisangani, Lara Santoro wrote in the Christian Science Monitor “And every day, cargo flights loaded with diamonds, gold, and palm oil take off from this Kisangani airport. The flights head in the direction of Kampala and Kigali, the capitals of Uganda and Rwanda”.
Did Uganda and Rwanda ever leave DRC? Not really. However, after frantic international pressure and shuttle diplomacy, the government of the DRC signed bilateral accords with Rwanda (July 2002) and with Uganda (September 2002), paving the way for withdrawal of their troops. The Rwandan soldiers left in October and Ugandan troops began withdrawing soon after, although some stayed on. In early 2003 Uganda briefly increased the number of its soldiers in Ituri, but under significant international pressure it started its final withdrawal of troops in May.
Indeed, DRC took Rwanda and Uganda to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for reparations in respect of robbing her resources, committing gross human rights violations against and massacring her people, Rwanda was acquitted but heavy fines were imposed on Uganda this year.
After holding oral proceedings in April 2021, the Court delivered its judgment on the question of reparations on 9 February 2022, awarding US$225,000,000 for damage to persons, US$40,000,000 for damage to property and US$60,000,000 for damage related to natural resources. It decided that the total amount due should be paid in five annual instalments of US$65,000,000 starting on 1 September 2022, and that, should payment be delayed, post‑judgment interest of 6 per cent would accrue on any overdue amount as from the day after the day on which the instalment was due. Uganda has already started to pay reparations to DRC.
President Tibuhaburwa Museveni stepped up deployment of UPDF in Eastern DRC ostensibly to contain ADF in DRC, according to Africa News in its article updated on 2 December 2021. Ugandans and the world were told it was a joint operation between Kampala and Kinshasa to crush ADF for once and all and Kinshasa confirmed that government had allowed UPDF to pursue ADF on its soil. The President of Uganda also explained that UPDF is in DRC to build a road between Uganda and Goma in the Eastern region of that country to boost trade between the two countries.
Eastern DRC is also the region where the M23 (Banyamulenge Rwandese refugees rebel group) stepped up its rebel activities against DRC forces, ostensibly to secure the group incorporated into the DRC Army. However, when Rwandese refugees were incorporated into the UNLA as FRONASA they went on to overthrow the government of Uganda after waging a 5-year war in Luwero Triangle. The phenomenon could repeat itself in DRC. Since Uganda and Rwanda went back to Eastern DRC M23 increased its fire power and even captured some places, which it controlled. Kinshasa accused both Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23. On 17 May 2022 Reuters the Kampala regime had decided to withdraw its 1,700 troops from Eastern DRC, which would end its Operation Shujaa. Shujaa (Hero in Swahili) was coined by the then Commander of Uganda’s Land Forces, Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
However, Operation Shujaa was extended for another two months in May 2022 and again at the September 2022 after the governments of Uganda and DRC agreed on the extensions. In April, President Yoweri Museveni revealed that 4,000 UPDF troops were involved in Operation Shujaa. Troops involved here are from the Mountain Division Specialised Force that has undergone training by French Special Forces in mountain warfare since 2016. In 2019, the Mountain Division was officially inaugurated by the President. During the reading of Uganda’s budget on June 14, Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, revealed that Shs3.9 trillion ($US1bn) had been allocated for “improvement of security and security infrastructure”. Although the Minister did not say how much would go to Operation Shujaa, it must be costing Ugandans immensely, diverting much needed financial resources from social development to the non-ending war against ADF. Government said in the national budget that it would build schools and hospitals. There is no evidence that building activities have started but war is going on in DRC.
The Independent of 7 Nov 2022 wrote “…. the hunt against ADF has brought a lot of scrutiny to the UPDF. In June, Congo Research Group, a New York-based outfit, released a critical report saying the UPDF was likely driven by profit motive rather than a peace mission. It also queried the Ugandan army’s military gains. Congo Research Group, cited by the Independent, is unequivocal in its critique” “Little is known about the military progress of the operation.
Although General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Museveni’s son and commander of the Ugandan land forces [he was dropped from the post after he claimed he and his army -UPDF -would capture Nairobi in two weeks), communicates often and enthusiastically about the operation on social media, neither army has provided much concrete information. “It does not appear that the ADF has been structurally weakened by the operation. A diplomat who follows the operations closely compared its strategy to “trying to kill a mosquito with a hammer.” Another diplomat is said to have described the operation as “a lot of dust and noise.”,writes the Congo Research Group.
Rwanda is ostensibly backed in DRC for another reason. It has consistently and persistently accused the DRC of supporting the FDLR (The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), an armed group opposed to the government in Kigali and operating on Congolese soil since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Just like Uganda claims are in DRC to secure itself from ADF, Rwanda says it is there to secure itself from FDLR. However, the Congolese government (Kinshasa) claims the aggression is orchestrated by Rwanda, using M23 as a cover, arguing that M23 would otherwise have neither the manpower nor the material capacity to confront the FARDC (the army of DRC).
One school of thought is that Rwanda and Uganda have never really left DRC since the late 1990s when the RPA and UPDF clashed in the famous Kisangani I and Kisangani II, ostensibly over sharing the Diamond and Wood resources their soldiers robbed from that country. However, another school of thought holds that ADF and M23 do not really exist as separate rebel entities but are linked to the illicit business carried out by the Uganda and Rwanda armed forces to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers of those countries.
According to ”Diamonds in Rwanda” In 2020, Rwanda exported $192 in Diamonds, making it the 114th largest exporter of Diamonds in the world. At the same year, Diamonds was the 404th most exported product in Rwanda. The main destination of Diamonds exports from Rwanda is Spain ($192). “The exploration and exploitation of gemstones is still at a low level in Rwanda. There are claims that the diamonds the country exports to Spain come from DRC robberies. There is need for serious research on Rwanda’s DRC diamonds links.
According to a report of the UN Panel of Experts, released on 20th November 2021 and cited by the Daily Monitor, also cited by the Global Policy Forum Newsletter of 21st November 2021 under the title “Kampala Diamond Exports Triple” , the sharp rise in Uganda’s diamond exports, is evidence of the continued plunder and exploitation (of the resources of DRC). Uganda is not known to have diamond deposits. The First UN Panel of Experts report, which was released in April 2021, indicated that Uganda exported 11,000 carats valued at $ 1.7m.
The Global Policy Forum’s Newsletter of 21st November 2021, citing Daily Monitor, corroborates The Christian Science Monitor that the sharp rise in Uganda’s diamond exports, is evidence of the continued plunder and exploitation (of DRC diamonds). Figures for 2001, extrapolated from the sales for the first eight months, shows 35,000carats valued at $ 3.8 million, Ugandan diamond export to Antwerp. The Global Policy Forum says “Uganda became the preferred destination for gold produced by artisanal miners in the surrounding region.
However, Uganda denied exploiting Congo’ mineral wealth before Justice David Porter’s Commission of Inquiry into the alleged exploitation of DRC’s natural resources Interestingly though the UN Panel said it had evidence that artisanal gold mining activities in the northeast by UPDF and RCD-ML have continued. It cited an example of the Kilo-Moto area where operations at the Gorumbwa and Durba sites in the DRC are under the control of the UPDF and RCD-ML. One of the sites reportedly “employs 10,000 diggers and generates amounts of gold valued at $10,000 per day”. It also claimed that the gold produced is still being sold through the Victoria comptoir in Kampala.
It should be recorded that the report exonerated the First Family of Uganda from the plunder of the resources of DRC. It also failed to name the Ugandan UPDF commanders who profiteered from the resources of DRC.
Now the European Union has swung into action in connection the plunder of DRC resources. It is clear that the European Union has come to the conclusion that war in DRC is illicit business in action. On 8th December It sanctioned Belgian gold trader, rebel chiefs over DR Congo fighting. The Belgian Gold businessman is Alain François Viviane Goetz. the benefactor and former director of African Gold Refinery, which is registered in Uganda, and which profits from mines controlled by militia groups in Congo’s South Kivu province. Alongside him, the EU targeted Maj. Willy Ngoma, military spokesman for the M23 rebel group, which has been accused of massacring scores of civilians as it fights the Congolese army; rebel leader Protogene Ruvugayimikore of the FDLR-FOCA militia; and Meddie Nkalubo alias Muhammad Ali Nkalubo, a commander in the Islamic State-affiliated; High-ranking government army officer, Joseph Nganzo Olikwa, Tipi was blacklisted for abuses committed by the 312th battalion he commanded, “in particular rapes of women between June and December 2021”; Congolese politician, Justin Bitakwira, was put on the list for speeches inciting “violence” against the DRC’s refugee Banyamulenge Rwandese community.
Others included on the list of sanctioned individuals are Abul Jihad, Punny Boy, a senior ADF leader; and some Congolese nationals who have been involved in illicit business of Congolese resources. Today 9th December other new additions to the sanctions list were five members of different armed groups, a member of the Congolese army, and a Congolese ex-minister. Most of those on the sanctions list are responsible for committing serious human rights violations and abuses, and for sustaining armed conflict in DRC to profit from the conflict. According to the European Union its decision is part of an integrated EU approach aimed at supporting the efforts of the DRC authorities to establish lasting peace and stabilize the eastern part of the country
There is no doubt the EU action to sanction those involved in sustaining conflict to profit from it turs off the looting machine, which included high ranking government officials -military, political and bureaucratic in Uganda and Rwanda. The government of Uganda had hoped that the operations of Goetz’s firm involved illicit DRC gold trade would help feed Uganda’s new oil refinery. Where will gold come from? Shall we wait or speed up the mining of the gold mines of Busoga or speed up the mining of Karamoja gold mines or both?
Mining.Com cited by Reuter of June 8, 2022, reports that recent exploration surveys show that Uganda has gold ore deposits of about 31 million tonnes and it wants to attract big investors to develop the sector hitherto dominated by small wildcat miners.
Experts say that Karamoja Gold has the world’s highest levels of purity. However, the Ubuntu Times, in its article of 1 September 2021 “Mining Rush Threatens Indigenous Peoples in Karamoja, Uganda” by Diana Taremwa Karakire, states that Mining activities in Uganda’s Karamoja region heighten environmental degradation and threaten the rights and livelihoods of the indigenous Karimojong people. It cites a one Anne Napeyo who says “We have been invaded by foreigners who don’t care about our livelihoods. Many of our people are getting wounds on their skin because the water here is contaminated.” It is artisanal diggers in action for individual gain.
The East African of July 27 2022, in an article by Joachim Buwembo titled:” Trillions in Busoga gold? How about we bank oil billions first?” He cites a Musoga saying “Our gold is worth $12 trillion, not Ush12 trillion”. A variety of rare earth minerals also exist in Busoga. This could explain the widespread land grabbing especially in Bugweri in Busoga. If the thieves of Gold and Diamonds in DRC do not transfer the Gold and Diamond rush to Busoga, the region in particular and Uganda in general should be a new paradise on Earth because the gold funds with transform it into one. The rare earth minerals are worth much, much more than the oil which we have for the past 17 years thought was a big deal”, writes Joachim Buwembo.
The question is: Is war as illicit business soon shifting to Busoga, Uganda, now that both USA and European Union have moved to destroy the looting machinery in DRC, in particular and East Africa in general?
For God and My Country