DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo’s government has denied agreeing to joint operations with Uganda’s army to track down Islamist rebels accused of suicide bombings in Kampala, insisting the two countries were only sharing intelligence.
Islamic State said their local affiliate, known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), was behind a November 16 attack that killed seven people, including the three bombers, and injured dozens more.
News reports about the proposed cross-border campaign, which was confirmed by two diplomatic sources, have sparked anxiety amongst some Congolese, who recall Uganda’s role in civil wars that ended in 2003.
President Felix Tshisekedi informed the United Nations peacekeeping mission on Friday he had authorised military cooperation with Uganda against the ADF, but did not provide any further details, a senior U.N. diplomat said.
The second diplomatic source said the same, but also had no more details.
Congo’s government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said the two armies have been exchanging information for many months, and that no Ugandan troops were currently in Congo.
“We have not said there will be joint operations. We have said there will be concerted actions,” he told a news conference, without elaborating. “If there is a need to go up a notch, we will.”
Ugandan authorities declined to comment, but last week its foreign minister said his country had the right to pursue the ADF in Congo, where the militia has been based for two decades, and has been blamed for a dozens of massacres in recent years.
“We have a right to self-defence, to hot pursuit. We can respond in self-defence and enter DRC,” Henry Okello Oryem, state minister for foreign affairs, told Reuters.
Kinshasa is still seeking over $13 billion in reparations from Kampala for Uganda’s involvement in the 1998-2003 conflict.
Denis Mukwege, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of work treating female victims of conflict, said the decision was unacceptable.
“No to arsonist-firefighters, the same errors will produce the same tragic effects,” the Congolese gynaecologist said on Twitter.
Juvenal Munubo, who sits on Congo’s parliamentary Defence and Security Commission, said Uganda’s presence in Congo could also reheat the rivalry between Kampala and Kigali.