SHARING IS CARING
In August 1999, only a month after the signing of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, a new dynamic of conflict emerged within the anti-Kabila alliance and further complicated Africa’s seven-nation war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A major battle took place between the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), resulting in the death of over six hundred troops and civilians.
Fighting between the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) erupted on 7 August 1999 and again on 14 August in Kisangani, the third largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), located in rebel-held territory. After three days of heavy fighting that caused 600 casualties and forced the population to flee the city, on 17 August Rwanda and Uganda agreed on a temporary ceasefire and on the necessity to send a joint Commission of Inquiry to investigate the responsibilities for the clashes.
Although the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda had grown increasingly strained during the first year of the DRC war, this violent and open confrontation came as a surprise. Uganda and Rwanda were considered as strong allies since the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took over in Rwanda after the genocide in 1994, and were the instigators of the anti-Mobutu war in 1996 and of the anti-Kabila war in 1998. This report examines the causes of tension between the former allies and their implications for the Lusaka peace process, and assesses the chances for improving the relationship.
Museveni’s Bush War (1981- 86)
The relationship between the Rwandan Patriotic Army and the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces dates back to the early 1980s. At that time, Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA), now the UPDF, led the guerrilla war that brought him to power’. This resistance movement included Rwandan Tutsis who had fled to Uganda as refugees in 1959 in response to the Hutu revolution that led to the massacre of the Tutsi minority.
In an effort to escape persecution from the Ugandan government forces under Milton Obote, thousands of Rwandan youth, following the example of (the now Rwandan President) Paul Kagame and former RPF leader Fred Rwigyema, joined Museveni’s NRA between 1981 and 1986. The NRA provided them with an opportunity to acquire military skills and experience that would eventually enable them to return home. It also introduced Rwandans to Ugandan power politics.
The National Resistance Army (NRA) was created as part of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM), which was the rebel movement that overthrew the Obote regime in 1986. When Museveni established legitimate leadership of Uganda, he transformed the National Resistance Army into the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Although some had served in the highly unpopular army of Idi Amin until 1979, the Rwandans had not before been directly involved in Ugandan politics. Ugandans were unsympathetic to the inclusion of a people considered to be refugees and outsiders. Their rejection was based on nationalism bordering on xenophobia.
- Rwandans Enter Ugandan Politics
After capturing power in 1986, President Yoweri Museveni appointed Rwandan senior military officers to key positions in the Ugandan army. Fred Rwigyema was awarded the rank of Major General, at a ceremony ironically attended by late President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda2, and was later appointed Deputy Minister of Defence. Paul Kagame was promoted to Major and appointed as director of military intelligence.
By appointing Rwandans to senior positions in security, Museveni prompted criticism from some Ugandan members of the National Resistance Army (NRA). They disapproved of the fact that Museveni had placed the security of the country in the hands of those that were still perceived to be foreigners. This political pressure finally forced Museveni to drop Rwigyema as Deputy Minister for Defence, and to send Paul Kagame out of the country in 1990 to attend a US government sponsored military strategy training course at Fort Leavenworth Academy.
The dismissal of senior Rwandan military officers from positions of power alarmed the Rwandan soldiers who remained in the Ugandan army. Some radical Rwandan officers who interpreted this move as a betrayal began planning a return to Rwanda through the use of force, and organized secret strategy meetings in both Kampala and Nairobi.
On 1 October 1990, news broke out that elements of the Ugandan army had attacked Rwanda while Museveni was attending a UN conference in the US. He later appeared at apress conference and said that this attack took him by surprise, but Rwandans largely assumed that he knew about the plan. After Museveni took over power in 1986, he had tried to establish a dialogue with Rwanda’s President Habyarimana concerning the repatriation of the Rwandan refugees, which specifically centred on the presence of Rwandan fighters in the NRA.
The talks did not result in a concrete agreement, as was demonstrated by Habvarimana statement that the refugees should be given citizenship in their countries of exile (Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania) since there was no Rwandan land available to them for return to due to demographic pressures. The launching of the RPA war was the beginning of an era that would redefine the relationship between Uganda and Rwanda and shape power relations in the Great Lakes region.
- Allegiances and Competition among Individual Rwandan and Ugandan Army Officers
During the five years of fighting in the bush with the NRA, Ugandan and Rwandan officers formed key alliances that continued to shape relationships between the two armies and their leaders. Major General Salim Saleh, President Yoweri Museveni’s brother, developed a close friendship with the first Commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Army, the late Fred Rwigyema. Other senior Ugandan army officers such as Major General Mugisha Muntu, the former Army Commander, and Colonel Kiiza Who would become his enemy on the battlefield in 1990 lined with Kagame.
Besigye being the then, Adviser to the Minister of State for Defence, formed close relationships with Paul Kagame. Unfortunately, General Salim Saleh was not able to develop the same type of friendship with Kagame as Rwigyema’s successor. The two officers in fact developed personality clashes resulting from different approaches to leadership. Paul Kagame was seen to be disciplined and reserved while Salim Saleh was more outspoken and business-oriented.
There were also said to be some tensions around the fact that Salim Saleh was senior to Paul Kagame in the National Resistance Army (NRA). Sources in the Ugandan army talked of a grudge between the two men that can be traced back to a disciplinary action during the Ugandan bush war taken against Salim Saleh when Kagame was in charge of a disciplinary committee for NRA.
The competition between these two influential leaders has greatly affected the way that both armies relate today. Since the beginning of the second DRC war on 2 August 1998, there has not been much contact between them. It is likely that better communication between them would have helped to contain the tension that erupted into violence between the two armies in the DRC in August 1999.
III. RWANDANS BECOME INDEPENDENT OF UGANDA
The Rwandan Patriotic Army’s war(1990-1994?) launched war against the former Rwandan government received strong material, diplomatic and moral support from the armed forces and politicians in Uganda. When the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) attacked Rwanda in 1990, they carried weapons from Ugandan army barracks, where a majority of them had been serving.
During the first months of the war, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) lost key leaders including Major General Fred Rwigyema and Majors Bayingana and Bunyenyezi. Uganda gave refuge to the remaining fighters while they regrouped and reorganized under the command of Major Paul Kagame, who had to cut short his military course in the United States to return to Uganda.
Ugandan support of the RPF was explained by two factors. Some Ugandans genuinely supported the RPF cause, especially the right to return home that they had been denied by the Habyarimana regime, and felt indebted to Rwandan fighters for their role in overthrowing the Obote and Okello regimes. However, other Ugandan military officers and politicians also had a personal interest in protecting their jobs, which they believed the Rwandans would compete for.
The RPF declared itself grateful for support that Uganda gave. What mattered at the time was that Ugandan support enabled the movement to fight a successful war against the then Kigali regime, take power and return home.
- Rwandan Patriotic Front in Power After 1994
In July 1994, when the RPF took over power in Rwanda, Ugandans took advantage of the victory and rushed to Kigali to sign business deals. Civil servants and casual labourers traded their goods, skills for sale to Kigali. As a result, Rwanda quickly replaced Kenya with Uganda as its first trading partner. Uganda also offered advice to Rwanda on economic reform, investment and taxation.
After the war, Rwanda relied on Uganda for basic commodities (salt, sugar and soap) and foodstuffs (milk, bananas and beans). However, as Rwanda’s economy grew and became self-sufficient, goods and services from Uganda seemed to have become less necessary. Most of Rwanda’s imports and exports continued to pass through Uganda to and from the port of Mombasa, but the Rwandan government had been trying to diversify trade routes and has reached an agreement with the Tanzania government to use the Dar Es Salaam port and with the Burundi government to use the Bujumbura port on Lake Tanganyka. In November 1999, following the Kisangani clash in August 1999, import bans were placed on foodstuffs from Uganda.’
Since RPF’s victory in 1994, both countries co-operated on security matters. For example, Uganda offered training to Rwandan police and army officers. Rwanda intervened militarily in support of the government in Uganda after a combination of Hutu rebels and Ugandan rebels overran Kisoro town on Uganda’s southwestern border in November 1996. Both armies also joined efforts to hunt down Hutu rebels responsible for the killing of western tourists in Bwindi National Park in early 1999.
President Yoweri Museveni and President Paul Kagame developed a good personal relationship, which they relied upon to conduct state business after 1994 with important issues between the two countries being left to the two of them to resolve: ministers appointed to address such issues rarely met. So although this relationship had been beneficial, it has also inhibited the development of a sustainable institutional relationship between the two countries.
- War against Mobutu (1996-1997) and Post-Victory Management :Cause of Museveni Kagame Tense
Rwanda was put in the spotlight when it led the regional effort to topple late President Mobutu in 1996. The war was motivated by the security challenge posed by thousands of ex-FAR5 and Interahamwe based in refugee camps in eastern DRC. On the one hand, according to Kagame’s pro newspaper the New Times Rwanda’s military success in Congo attracted the envy of Ugandan military officers. They were impressed by the capacity of the Rwandan army to lead a regional military campaign that was composed of various African forces from Angola, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea.
Although Uganda was largely credited for the successful rebellion against Mobutu, Rwanda invested far more in human and material terms. This fact was brought to light in the revealing Washington Post interview with President Kagame in July 1997,6 which outlined the three objectives of the Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) rebellion:
The objectives mainly centred to dismantle the refugee camps in Eastern Zaire, destroy the structure of the Hutu army and militias based in or around the camps, and topple Mobutu. “I don’t think Congolese rebels were fully prepared to carry it out alone. “We did continue to take some role because we thought doing it “, Kagame was quoted by the Washington Post
Boom “Uganda and Rwanda fail to agree on milk and fish trade”, Pan African News Agency reported on , 3 December 1999. Forces Armees Rwandaises. 6 John Pomfret, “Rwanda acknowledges supplying arms, troops, plans to Congo rebellion”, Washington Post reports, 9 July 1997. Halfway would be very dangerous”, Kagame said.
On the other hand, Ugandans blamed the Rwandans for the mistakes they made during the war against Mobutu and for the mismanagement of the victory subsequent to his downfall. They accuse the Rwandans of pushing for a quick victory instead of involving and empowering all Congolese political forces in the anti-Mobutu war. The Museveni government had been organizing against Mobutu even before the RPA took power in 1994, because Mobutu was supporting Ugandan groups linked to Idi Amin and hostile to the regime.
At the time “Ugandans were grooming a fairly well-regarded Zairian called Kisasu Ngandu to be the Museveni of Congo”‘. When the anti-Mobutu rebellion broke out in October 1996, Kisasu became part of the AFDL, but died a few weeks after the beginning of the war. Rwanda’s then Col. James Kabarebe said that he was killed “in an ambush by Mai Mal militiamen between Kanyabayunga and Rubero, which was a very dangerous stretch of the road.
Thus began the crisis in Uganda-Rwanda relations because many Ugandan officers held the RPA responsible for Kisasu Ngandu’s death”, After the fall of Kisangani, President Museveni says that he advised Kabila, who was then the leader of the AFDL, to hold a conference involving all political forces opposed to Mobutu, but that Kabila ignored his advice and proceeded to capture Kinshasa, supported by the RPA.’ After Kabila took over power, the Ugandans say that they again tried to advise Kabila to undertake political reforms and to adopt more transparent decision-making processes, but that the Rwandans prevented them from seeing him.
After Kabila took power in May 1997, the regional leaders gave the Rwandan Patriotic Army the task of re—organizing the Congolese national army, since Kabila, according to Julius Nyerere, was a “regional project”. The entire Mobutu army had fled to exile and those who remained in place were worn-down AFDL troops, including Katangan gendarmes, troops from Kasai, Banyamulenge soldiers and kadogosw. Kabila first appointed Masasu Nnendaka, one of the AFDL vice-presidents, as his Chief of Staff and assigned him to integrate the different entities into a single national force and to create a new national army of 600,000 men (Forces Armees Congolaises).
However, that project was complicated by the different backgrounds of the forces he had managed to mobilize and by the fact that the Rwandan troops helping him to retain power were very much resented by the Congolese population. In September 1997, with tension growing, Rwanda had withdrawn the thousands of its troops in Kinshasa back to Kigali. Only 200 soldiers were left in the City.”” In November 1997, Kabila purged Masasu and appointed Rwandan officer, Colonel James Kabarebe, a move that provoked anti-Rwandan hostility among many Congolese. RPA officers say that “Kabila asked Kagame to “lend” him Col. Kabarebe to help him reorganise the army. … Kagame at first refused but relented later”.12
Charles Onyango-Obbo reports, “RPA brings Kabila in; UPDF try kicking him out”, The Monitor’s Headline read, 14 April 2000. Background to the situation in the Great Lakes region. A document was issued by President Yoweri Museveni in August 1998 at the heads of state summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. ” The “kadogos” are young soldiers, mostly street kids, who fought in the 1996-97 war against Mobutu. ” Charles Onyango-Obbo, “RPA brings Kabila in; UPDF try kicking him out”, The Monitor, 14 April 2000. ” Ibid.
At the same period, Kabila let it be known that he intended to free Congo from foreign influences and appointed his son Joseph Kabila and his brother-in-law Celestin Kifwa to key positions in the army. The new president of the DRC started to behave in an autocratic and untransparent manner. Furthermore, despite his allies’ pressure to deal with the security concerns of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, he was obviously not concerned by the intensification of attacks of the ex-FAR, Mal Mai, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy of Burundi (FDD), and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Eastern DRC in February 1998. In May-June 1998, he even started to organise those groups against Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Angola was the first to propose to get rid of Kabila, but “Rwanda and Uganda hesitated’. As of February 1998, the relationship between Kabila and his former regional sponsors started to deteriorate seriously for three major reasons: Kabila’s quest for regional leadership; his tolerance of rebel groups aiming at destabilizing the governments and its neighbours; and, his unwillingness to co-operate on economic projects. It reached a point where both Kabila and his former sponsors started to prepare for possible conflict.
In July 1998, as a result of that tension, the RPA decided to leave the DRC. During the departure of RPA troops, a military uprising was declared in the east of the country on 2 August 1998. The Rally for the Congolese Democracy (RCD) was formed on 1 August, a day before the war broke out, and included a number of former AFDL members appointed ministers by Kabila, some Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC) officers and independent characters like Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Arthur Zahidi Ngoma.
The RCD, officially based on criticism of the AFDL, was more a coalition of political forces than a cohesive rebel movement. But the day the last contingent of the RPA left, Kabila forces attacked the Banyamulenge recruits left in Kinshasa and started inciting the Congolese to kill Tutsis. A few days later, RPA troops with an Ugandan artillery unit of 31 soldiers launched an armed offensive in Kitona, with the objective of saving those Banyamulenge soldiers and overthrowing Kabila. But the advance on Kinshasa failed, with the intervention of Zimbabwe and Angola forcing the RPA troops to withdraw. The tense ethnic situation could have further degenerated if RPA Tutsi troops had entered Kinshasa.
WAR TO TOPPLE KABILA: FROM ALLIES TO ENEMIES?
Rwandan troops were the first to move into the DRC after the breakout of war on 2 August 1998. Uganda deployed a month later. For the first three months, both armies worked together and carried out joint military operations against Kabila’s forces.
When the war broke out on 2 August 1998, the RPA backed the mutiny begun by the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC) in the east of the DRC. Within a few weeks, the towns of Goma, Bukavu and Uvira in the Kivus were captured. With their borders secured, Rwandan troops (RPA) and the Congolese (RCD) prepared for major battles.
Their first move was the fateful attempt to fly troops to Kitona, in western Congo, to capture the capital, Kinshasa; but within a few days Angolan troops defeated the Rwandan-backed rebels. After that failure, the RCD forces and the RPA captured Kisangani, the second-largest town in the DRC, on 23 August 1998 and established tactical headquarters. The defeat in western DRC forced Rwanda to change its strategy and shift to the south, which led to the capture of Fizi and Baraka in South Kivu, of Kalemie and Moba by the end of 1998, and of Kabalo, Manono, all in Shaba province, in the first few months of 1999.
On the central front, the Rwandans and the Congolese rebels captured Shabunda in South Kivu and the strategic town of Kindu on the river Congo in Maniema in October 1996, which was supposed to be a springboard for attacking rebel positions in the east. The original plan was for UPDF, RPA and RCD rebels to capture Kindu together. But the Ugandans withdrew from the operation at the last minute. The loss of Kindu dramatically diminished Kabila’s capacity to launch attacks on areas held by the rebels and their allies in the east. By the time the Lusaka peace agreement was signed on 10 July 1999, fighting had spread to Katanga province and Kasai provinces. The frontline was now near Kabinda in Kasai, next to the diamond-rich town of Mbuji Mayi.
Ugandan troops (UPDF) came in and first took over Beni, Bunia, Watsa and Isiro in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The capture of Kisangani by the RCD and RPA encouraged the sending of more troops to the DRC and the establishment of headquarters in Kisangani in order to control key installations there. The idea behind the move was for the UPDF to occupy the “liberated zones” while the RPA/RCD forces could advance quickly on the frontline. UPDF then advanced through Banalia, a river 100 miles north of Kisangani, up to Buta.
A number of major battles were fought on the northern front in an attempt by Chadian government forces to stop the rebels from advancing into Equateur province. A new Congolese movement emerged during that campaign: the Movemement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by Jean Pierre Bemba. After defeating the Chadians, the Ugandan army penetrated the interior of DRC and fought the Angolans at Dulia and Bumba in the Equateur province.
According to President Museveni’s address to Parliament on 30 August 1999, a combination of Kabila’s brigade of 2,000 troops and Angolan troops attacked the Ugandan army at Lisala and were defeated in February 1999. The continued attacks by Kabila and his allies on Ugandan positions North West of Lisala in Equateur province are said to have prompted the Ugandan army and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) to advance on Businga, a strategic town on the road junction to Gbadolite and the Central African Republic”.
After Businga, Ugandan troops moved on to capture Gbadolite, a town with a modern airport, capable of using air force planes. They then controlled the Congolese border with the Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville.
- Build up to the Kisangani Fighting
The fighting that erupted in August 1999 between UPDF and RPA was due to persistent and serious differences over the objectives and strategies of the war in Congo. Ultimately, Congolese rebel factions had been used as proxies in the power struggle between the Ugandan and Rwandan armies.
- Conflicting Interpretations of the Reasons for Intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Rwanda’s intervention in the DRC were based on evidence that Kabila had been identifying and training ex-FAR and Interahamwe since as early as September 1997. When asked about the reason for those contacts, Kabila claimed that he wanted to gather the Interahamwe and ex-FAR in camps to show them to the United Nations (UN), which had been accusing the AFDL of killing refugees during its 1996-1997 campaign.
Some of the ex-FAR had indeed escaped the AFDL’s campaign. For example, after the capture of Kisangani in March 1996, five thousand ex-FAR avoided the AFDL by going in small groups towards the northeast. The ex-FAR and Interahamwe have assembled in Masisi and Congo’s Virunga’s National Park, then infiltrated Rwanda’s adjoining Parc des VoIcons. Before the second DRC war, this group was firmly established in the Ruhengeri and Gisenyi regions bordering DRC and often attacked in rural areas around Gitarama and Kigali. Their target has been Tutsi civilians and anyone challenging their presence. Among the groups who are fighting the RPA, there is also a small number of ex-FAR that have not committed genocide, who joined the RPA after 1994 but later returned to the bush.
They operated further south in the mountains along Rwanda’s side of Lake Kivu in Nyungu Forest, south of Gitarama. All those groups want to overthrow the RPA regime in Kigali. The ex-FAR have allied with the Burundi rebels, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) and different groups of the Congolese Mai Mal, and some bands of the ex-Forces Armees Zairoises (FAZ)15 which were scattered across the country and were always involved in criminal activities.
There are different theories for Uganda’s involvement in the DRC war.
The official reason was that Uganda deployed troops to DRC purely for vital national security interests, which included fighting anti-Museveni rebel groups which were based in eastern DRC (the Alliance for Democratic Forces, the West Nile Bank Front and the Lord’s Resistance ArmyI6) and to prevent Sudan from taking advantage of the FAZ which were the Zairian Army under Mobutu’s time. 16 The ADF emerged around 1992 following a crisis within the Uganda Muslim Council. The Uganda Supreme Court had ruled that Shiekh Luwemba was the legitimate Mufti of Uganda.
A group of tabliq youths opposed the decision calling it government interference in Muslim Affairs. The Muslim Youth clashed with the Police and later with the military police. Several youth were arrested and imprisoned for about one year. Upon their release, a split occurred within the leadership of the Tabliq’s. A section of the group led by Jamil Mukulu, was believed to have gone underground leading to the formation of ADF. Ugandan Security put it that the ADF together with NALU had been operating from Eastern Congo to attack Uganda.
Privately, however, some Ugandan officials contradicted this public line. They said the decision to send troops to Congo was primarily to save Rwanda from a potential defeat after the failure to capture Kinshasa in August 1998. A senior Ugandan military official told the International Crisis Group that President Yoweri Museveni had to convince a reluctant high command to approve the deployment of troops in the DRC. “We felt that the Rwandese started the war and it was their duty to go ahead and finish the job, but our President took time and convinced us that we had a stake in what is going on in Congo”.”
Furthermore, the Ugandans felt that should the RPA have lost power, a genocide against the Tutsi more extreme than in 1994 would probably unfold and Uganda would have to bear the burden of hosting Tutsi exiles and of having a hostile regime next door. Such events could provide grounds for a number of ethnic groups in Uganda like the Banyarwanda Hutus and Bahima to begin opportunistic movements against the Tutsi hegemony.
The guerrilla movement against the Ugandan government was indeed said to have collaborate with the ex-FAR. This perception of Rwanda’s weakness was reinforced by the fact that Rwanda would need UPDF’s heavy and sophisticated equipment to fight against Zimbabwe and Angola.
In contrast, Rwandan senior military officials strongly denied the Ugandan version of the story. They claimed that Uganda had intervened because of security concerns and a strong belief that Kabila had to be overthrown after betraying both countries. They saw the argument that Uganda entered the war to prevent a humiliating defeat as a show of arrogance on the part of some Ugandan senior army officers who denied that Rwanda had the capacity to fight on its own.
It was likely that the common disappointment over Kabila’ as well as the disagreements over how the war should have been conducted in DRC were the real motives for Museveni’s decision to intervene. First, the second Congo war would give Uganda a chance to demonstrate its military power in the region. Secondly, it would prove that Museveni’s more political approach was the right one.
- Creation of Rival Rebel Factions and Strategic Differences
In August 1998 Uganda directly accused Rwanda of forming the RCD without involving them. “As far as the rebels of Congo were concerned, right from the beginning, our Rwandese brothers, without consulting us, spearheaded the formation of a political committee headed initially by Professor Zahidi Ngoma. Later we were told by the Rwandese that Ngoma had been replaced by Professor Wamba dia Wamba All these meetings were taking place in Kigali and Goma and we gave our unconditional support. However, as our army continued to stay in Congo, we noted that the rebels were not mobilizing the people. UPDF Oficer was quoted in an interview with Ochieng Obbo The East Africa Correspondent at the time. They were not administering the liberated zones he added They were not providing social services, and
The second security concern was the west Nile Bank Front (WNBF). This rebel group was been operating in Aruu district of Congo. Its believed that during the Mobutu period this group was put in charge of the district at times extracting tax from the Congolese. The taxes, according to Ugandan Security would be used to finance its wars against Uganda government. I7 Interview with a senior Ugandan military official by ICG analysts, 25 September 1999. IS See “Africa’s Seven Nation War”, ICG DRC Report N° 4, 21 May 1999.
they were not repairing the infrastructure, such as roads, and yet they were collecting taxes.””
Uganda and Rwanda had a deep difference in the way they saw the solution to the Congo crisis. Rwanda believed in a military solution to the crisis, which meant that Kabila should have been removed as soon as possible in order to prevent him from strengthening Rwanda’s enemy, the ex-FAR and its allied forces.
Kagame said very clearly that there is no other option than fighting them: “We shall fight them, that is the solution.”2° The Rwandese do not trust any other army to carry this out and for a long time perceived the efforts to negotiate the ceasefire agreement in Lusaka as an obstacle to eradicating their enemies and securing Kivu. They finally signed it under a lot of pressure, and after making sure that the reason for their intervention was legitimized and accepted by all belligerents. Uganda, on the other hand, believed that a political approach must accompany military action in order to ensure a durable solution.
According to Museveni, the Congolese needed to be liberated and were must be empowered to do it themselves. As early as December 1998, some UPDF officers were quoted as saying: “The RCD is nothing on the ground. They were just handpicked by Kigali after their planned coup against Kabila failed. They are just beginning to organize themselves into a serious group.’
According to President Museveni, the failure by the RCD to mobilize the population resulted in the creation of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) in December 1998. The creation of the MLC sent a clear message to Rwanda that Uganda had a different strategy and interests in Congo. This marked the beginning of serious tensions between the two allies, and the breaking of the RCD monopoly on rebel politics, especially their claim of military victories. Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the MLC, operates in his home province, Equateur. In creating the MLC, Uganda essentially opened a new front, and a parallel war in northwestern Congo.
SHARING IS CARING
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