SHARING IS CARING
PART II – IF YOU MISSED PART I READ IT HERE
All attempts to unite the MLC and the mainstream RCD had failed so far at the time, because neither Rwanda nor Uganda were willing to lose the military and political influence over the progression of the war afforded to them by their proxies.
In order to avoid a clash with the Rwanda-backed RCD, Bemba deliberately never undermined the other rebel groups. Museveni justified that attitude: “We wanted him to explain to the population why we were fighting Kabila and he did it. However, when he realized that he had a lot of support, he formed his own organization. The moment Bemba saw his group’s name as a separate organization in Lusaka, he would not listen to my proposal of joining the RCD. He became even more adamant”.”
- Signing of the Sirte Agreement
Suspicions became rife, and each side began taking unilateral decisions. President Museveni took the initiative of signing the Sirte agreement with President Kabila on 19 April 1999 in Libya under the auspices of Colonel Gaddafi, and presidents Afeworki of Eritrea and Derby of Chad, without consulting Rwandan authorities. The agreement called for a ceasefire, the deployment of African peacekeepers, the withdrawal of foreign troops and an internal dialogue for Congolese parties.
Uganda’s aims in signing the Sirte agreement were to offer an exit strategy to the Chadian troops that were fighting alongside Kabila’s forces in the north, and to prevent Gaddafi from giving Kabila massive quantities of military aid. Rwanda, as well as the three rebel groups, rejected the Sirte agreement, despite an invitation by the Libyan leader to Tripoli to sign it.
- Defection of Wamba
The defection of Wamba dia Wamba from the mainstream RCD in May 1999 to form a rival RCD based in Kisangani also set the stage for the clash between Ugandan and Rwandan troops.
Wamba dia Wamba had earlier in an interview with ICG said his problems with RCD-Goma started when he exposed the corruption in the movement. “Some of the people in the RCD did not want us to address the question of accountability, and wanted to spend movement money like theirs, so in that sense they saw me as a threat”, Wamba told ICG. President Yoweri Museveni blamed Rwanda for failing to appease the leadership tensions within the RCD:
“Instead of working towards reconciliation of the two groups, Rwanda worked towards having Professor Wamba removed from the leadership of the RCD.”23 Doctor Emile Ilunga was elected in his place.
The Rwandans and the RCD-Goma, on the other hand, claimed that Wamba dia Wamba had established contacts with Kabila without consulting the movement. According to Bizima Karaha, Chief of Security and Intelligence for RCD-Goma, senior Ugandan officials encouraged Wamba dia Wamba’s defection by raising his suspicion.
On 24 May 1999 Wamba dia Wamba changed his RPA bodyguards to some provided by UPDF and left Goma in May 1999 under heavy military escort provided by Uganda.He later claimed that RCD-Goma had tried to assassinate him twice, once in May 1999, and once during the Kisangani clash of August 1999.26
The division of the RCD factions, which was supported by Uganda and Rwanda, led to the failure of the rebels to sign the Lusaka peace agreement on 10 July 1999. This embarrassed Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Pasteur Bizimungu in front of the other regional heads of state that had come to sign the agreement. In an attempt to resolve the split, President Chiluba, who was chairing the Lusaka meeting, and the South Africans were proposed a “verification exercise” to resolve leadership claims within the two RCD factions. The verification mission was composed of the South African foreign minister Zuma Nkosazana and the Zambian minister for the Presidency Eric Silwamba.
But that mission became very politicized and increased tensions between the two RCDs and their backers, both competing to show the Zambian and South African ministers that they had more followers among the Congolese. On 7 August 1999, the verification team failed to visit Kisangani due to the exchange of gunfire between Congolese rebel factions and their supporters. Brigadier Kazini(RIP) claimed that Ugandan forces fired at the RCD forces in self-defense after they attempted to prevent the Congolese from meeting Wamba. “I deployed troops to protect people who wanted to attend the rally by Prof. Wamba, but then they attacked us, we shot back in self defence” Kazini was quoted.
However, RPA Lt Colonel Rutayisire said “Kazini got the issues upside down; they have corruptly tried to use their muscle to create an impression to the verification team that Wamba is in control, and cause trouble. The team may think Wamba is strong, but this is not Wamba’s strength, it is UPDF strength.”The exercise took place on 12 August after the intervention of South Africa, but the verification report was overtaken by events and was never released.
The tension between Uganda and Rwanda escalated into a full-blown warfare in Kisangani from 1999-17 August. On 17 August, Kagame and Museveni signed a temporary ceasefire and initially agreed that they would respect the outcome of the investigation. But they then very quickly agreed on a compromise formula, which enabled all the 51 founders of the RCD to sign the Lusaka agreement on 1 September 1999. Bringing all of the founders to sign the Lusaka agreement offered a solution to the dual claims to RCD leadership by Ilunga and Wamba and broke the stalemate in the signing of the Lusaka agreement.
Another tenuous issue between Uganda and Rwanda was the continuous counter-accusations by both armies that they were plundering Congo’s resources. Trade was a major strategic objective and prospective source of funding for the rebels and the allies from the beginning of the war but it had instead turned out to be a source of weakness and division in their struggle.
Although the war was hurriedly planned in August 1998, the rebels and the allies agreed on three basic strategies to win support of the local Congolese and throughout Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. The first was that military victory was necessary in order to develop the confidence in the local population. This strategy would create a feeling among the local people that the rebels and the allies have military power. The second strategy was to use politics and plant the seeds for the development of a political system, which would both help to empower the Congolese and help them to perceive the rebels as a legitimate force.
The third strategy was purely economic. The allies had agreed to open the borders to import primarily Kenyan goods into liberated areas in eastern DRC. Kenya was a main target because it was initially hostile to the rebellion. The rebels argued that by allowing Kenyan goods into the rebel-held territory, the Kenyan business people would help to change the Kenyan government’s perception about the rebellion. The import of cheap Kenyan goods was also expected to lower market prices in rebel-held territories, which would in turn cause anxiety in areas controlled by Kabila. In the long run, the rebels would be seen to be offering a better deal.
This plan, however, did not turn out as expected. As soon as Wamba established the RCD-Kisangani under UPDF’s protection, the RPA started accusing UPDF commanders, including Kazini, of getting involved in business deals and car robberies and of losing its war objectives. The New Times, a pro-RPF weekly paper, attacked UPDF accusing them of using the war in Congo to enrich themselves. “General Saleh deployed gold diggers” The Weekly New Times Headline Read.
Disagreements between Local Commanders
Tension between local commanders of both armies started at the beginning of April 1999, when the UPDF helped the RCD faction loyal to Wamba dia Wamba move to Kisangani in April. On 1 May 1999, some of the rival RCD-Goma top officials, led by its Vice President Jean-Pierre Ondekane and Chief of Intelligence Bizima Karaha, also moved camp to Kisangani to prevent Wamba from establishing a political and military base there. Kisangani was already very tense due to longstanding disagreements between the RPA Commander, Colonel Nyanvumba, and Brigadier Kazini of the UPDF.
Kisangani was divided into two zones and the rival factions moved to occupy different zones of town. They were not supposed to cross into each other’s area of jurisdiction except with express permission; only the city centre was open to all. The Ugandan forces established their tactical headquarters in a timber factory that was just two kilometers from the headquarters of the RPA. UPDF had its own administration in Kisangani. A small force of the RCD faction occupied another part of the town. The RCD and RPA had a joint administration for arms, food and logistics.
The different approaches of the two main backers of the administration of the occupied territories were the main reason for the fallout. Brigadier Kazini, the then overall commander of Ugandan troops, put in place procedures for running the city. Hours were imposed and Ugandan troops were ordered to arrest any soldier who was not respecting the curfew, including RCD rebels and RPA troops. There was great emphasis placed on presenting Ugandan troops as orderly and disciplined, and as true liberators.
Both RCD-Goma rebels and RPA troops were angered by the UPDF attitude, which they considered to be arrogant. However, Colonel Nyanvumba of the RPA played down the differences in June. “I personally try to be in touch with commander Kazini as much as possible to avoid any problems. What has happened is nothing to worry about.’ Nyavumba was quoted
Boomm!!!, mother source of conflict comes in as disagreement over the management of Bangoka, the main airport in Kisangani. Initially, Rwandan and Ugandan armed forces jointly controlled the airport, which was an essential supply route; however, Rwandan troops had control of a second airport (Sim Sim) outside Kisangani. Brigadier Kazini decided then to take total control of Bangoka. Both sides deployed more troops to protect their control of Bangoka airport.
Before the fighting in August, Major Gervus Mugyenyi of UPDF confiscated the keys of the terminal buildings and the control tower from civilian staff, a move that was interpreted by Rwandan troops as hostile. The incident was cited in the joint inquiry report commissioned by both forces.3°
Both sides used FM radio stations in their respective camps to broadcast hostile messages discrediting each other. Radio Television Nationale Congolaise, under RCD-Goma’s control, accused UPDF of “smuggling, promoting ethnic hatred and splitting the RCD.”3I Brigadier James Kazini threatened to arrest Jean-Pierre Ondekane, overall commander of the RCD-Goma faction.
In a letter dated 4 June 1999, he wrote: “You started the war on the wrong political platform. The war program did not have any meaningful political substance emphasizing genuine Congolese national interests and was lacking a clear political programme and a clear organizational line. I am now warning you forthwith to cease provoking us. If you continue I will attack and arrest you any time from today.
On the night of 4 June 1999, the UPDF deployed tanks on to the streets of Kisangani. The threat to attack the commander of RCD-Goma was taken seriously by the Rwandan forces in Kisangani. The following morning, the Governor, RCD-Goma commanders and a group of residents condemned the UPDF’s action. UPDF commanders later explained that they were just relocating tanks from one area of town to another.33
In reply to Kazini’s letter, Jean-Pierre Ondekane described Radio Liberty, based in UPDF’s headquarters, as “a system of aggression against the Congolese and a machinery to promote Wamba”.34 “Brigadier Kazini has been involved in disarming our soldiers without consulting us, he has been involved in the smuggling of timber, gold, diamonds and other commodities without paying taxes”. Kazini denied Ondekane’s accusations: “Look around and see if there is anything to steal here.”Kazinin responded to Ondekane
The tensions increased dramatically over the decision enacted by a decree signed by James Kazini in early July 1999 to redraw the administrative boundaries of the Oriental province and to create a new one called Kibali-Ituri. The creation of this province comprising gold-mining areas like Kilomoto, as well as export-import measures aimed at redirecting tax income flows, was understood by the Rwandan leadership as an attempt to gain control over the region’s economic assets.
- Who Fired the First Shot?
The first incident between UPDF and RPA happened on 7 August 1999. Heavy fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan troops started in the evening of 14 August 1999 and stopped after three days of employing heavy mortars, automatic rifles and artillery. Each side accused the other of starting the fighting, which was aimed at the control of key installations such as the airport, the central bank and the major road junctions.
“Uncertainty, fear, confusion in Congo’s predicament mirrored in Kisangani” by Levi Ochieng, The East African, June 14-20 1999 A headline read in the East African Newspaper. The question of who fired the first shot in Kisangani still divides both armies of Uganda and Rwanda. The findings of the Joint Inquiry headed by the heads of both armies came out in October 1999. The report largely blamed UPDF for initiating the fighting on 7 August. The report concludes that “the confrontational and antagonistic stance of Brigadier Kazini towards the RCD-Goma faction and the issuance of arrest orders for Commander Ondekane and all his soldiers, and the response of the governor by deploying military police to break Wamba’s rally caused the confrontation between the UPDF and RCD-Goma faction on 7 August.
The resultant heavy deployments of UPDF in the city centre, digging of trenches and deployment of heavy support weapons was seen as provocative to RPA, which accordingly made counter deployments. There was a lack of communication on the part of UPDF command regarding their changes of deployments at the airport and this was to be provocative”. Regarding the fighting on 14 August, “the committee could not establish who shot first at the other at the airport since the way deployments had been designed and were bound to result into a shoot-out” but locals in the city said that “there was evidence that before the fight, there was battle preparation on either side, including reinforcement of manpower and equipment”.
Col. James Kabarebe of the RPA was sent to Kisangani between the incidents on 7 and 14 August for those preparations, where he was insulted by UPDF officers who called him “small corporal”. Rwanda accepted the report and called it “a fair assessment of the Kisangani incidents”. Uganda, however, rejected it on the grounds that the investigation failed to interview key witnesses (such as Wamba) and failed to point out that the RPA had shot at a plane carrying UPDF reinforcements before the fighting on 14 August.
According to President Museveni’s explanation, strong support for Wamba at a rally he addressed on 7 August in the presence of the Zambian verification team had angered the Rwandan army, and was the main reason for the deployment of more Rwandan troops in Kisangani. ‘The show of strength and support for Wamba apparently angered the Rwandese, who subsequently started bringing troop reinforcements into Kisangani.
“I received information from Brigadier Kazini on the need to bring into Kisangani troop reinforcements, in light of what the RPA was doing. I allowed Brigadier Kazini to do so, but in the meantime I sent Colonel Kale Kayihura to Rwanda to seek explanations on the activities of the RPA troops in Kisangani, and on the general arrogance of the Rwandese in Congo, behaving as if they had power to veto any move they did not like, instead of looking for compromises.”‘ Museveni was quoted at the rally
Establishment of a Joint Command
There were various attempts to form a joint command to co-ordinate operations between the two armies in Congo, but the idea never took off, largely because each side preferred to work separately.
According to Colonel Nyanvumba, ‘The best way to manage their operations was be to have a joint command, but this issue never took off. “I purposely came here to be part of that joint command. It was supposed to be composed of the UPDF, the RPA, and the Congolese rebel forces. Whatever it involved was not clear but co-ordination centres were set up. Nothing has been done”Nyanvumba is quoted. 38
Each side blamed the other for inhibiting the establishment of a joint command. A senior Ugandan military official told the International Crisis Group that Uganda was reluctant to support the idea of a joint command until the two allies harmonize their objectives and strategies on the war.39
Dividing Areas of Operation into Sectors
The areas under the control of both Uganda and Rwanda were supposed to have been divided into clearly defined sectors. Instead, each country deployed the way they wanted. Uganda deployed across the border from Beni northwards, and Rwanda deployed from Goma southwards. The only area where there was troop mix was Kisangani, creating confusion in the chain of command.
As Museveni explains it: “In the whole of Congo it was only in Kisangani that our forces were together. In the Rwandese sectors, we attached our small but crucial units to their forces – such as the tanks and anti-aircraft systems we had in Goma. Whenever we wanted to contact those forces we would do so through the Rwandese. However, when I told them to attach their forces to our army in Kisangani, they were reluctant. All these points which we have now agreed upon should have been agreed upon a year ago when we went into Congo. With such an arrangement it would not have been easy to cause confusion” Museveni retaliated.”
Recommendations of the Joint Inquiry
The report from the Joint Inquiry issued the following recommendations: ”
1) Change of top command in Kisangani of both UPDF and RPA should go along with the relocation of the troops involved in the fight;
2) Implementation of the proposed Joint Command and sectorisation of operation areas;
3) All armed factions and political Headquarters of the different factions could be shifted from Kisangani; the factions should be located in different towns;
4) Harmonisation of Political and Military strategy by the allies. The different rebel factions should be unified to avoid any other problems;
5) Regular meetings between allied commanders both at the technical and strategic level;
6) A formal Status of Forces agreement should be worked out for the Joint Operations of the two allied forces in Congo;
7) Commanders should not assume the role of, nor interfere in administrative and commercial matters. These should strictly be left to the civil local authorities”
The recommendations aimed at demilitarizing the city and at re-establishing communication between the top commanders, but so far only three out of seven had been implemented: the change in top command in Kisangani; the shift of RCD factions; and the scheduling of regular meetings between commanders Parliament challenges the Presidency
The Ugandan public and Parliament reacted angrily to the perceived defeat of UPDF forces in Kisangani, seriously threatening Museveni’s political career and credibility. The Ugandan Parliament’s reaction was very critical of both President Museveni and the Rwandan government. “In 1990, the RPA stole our guns. Has it occurred to the government that the RPA could be using the same guns to kill our soldiers in Congo? What steps are being taken to recover those guns?”, a Member of Parliament asked. “The fighting in Kisangani between our troops and the Rwandese vindicates me and my colleagues who have been arguing that this fighting is not about liberating Congolese, but shooting them”. The MP added
Museveni realized that the only way to calm his domestic critics was to verbally attack the RPA. In his address to parliament, he explained how the situation arose: “Therefore, one of my explanations is that our RPA brothers have never had time to develop sufficiently to know how to do some of the things. They think that taking shortcuts here and there will get them to their aim. Another explanation I have been hearing is that the RPA wanted to dominate Congo but that we are stopping them. For our part, we are interested in empowering the Congolese and it seems the Rwandese do not like it. However, even if we were obstructing whatever plans they had on Congo, how do they think that they could attack us and get away with it? It is very short sighted indeed. Mother explanation which could make some little bit of sense could be that they wanted to kill Wamba” Museveni speech to parliament sitting
The Ugandan leadership had in the past indicated a willingness to withdraw its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo. An opinion poll carried out by The New Vision showed that 81 per cent of the Ugandans wanted UPDF to pull out of the DRC. The withdrawal was echoed in President Yoweri Museveni’s address to Parliament: “In fact, earlier on when I saw that reluctance on how to handle Kisangani in December 1998, I had met President Bizimungu in Kabale. I said to him ‘Mr President, you seem to have some problems on how to manage Kisangani, so I propose that I withdraw all our forces from Congo and you handle the situation yourselves, if you are able to do so.’ He said, ‘No, you cannot withdraw because that will cause many other problems’.”
The increased attacks by the Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces in western Uganda could have served as a reason for the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops from the DRC in order to combat the rebel threat at home.’
Museveni’s declaration was intended to show the public that the government had options and was in control of the situation. It was highly unlikely that Uganda could withdraw its troops given the extent of threats from the DRC Rebel groups, which are not solely linked to Rwanda’s. Museveni could not withdraw unilaterally until at least some strategic results were achieved: either Kabila goes, and/or Lusaka agreement was implemented, and/or the Ugandan guerrilla movement was completely eradicated, and/or the Sudanese threat is seriously reduced.
President Museveni’s final message to the Parliament on the relationship with Rwanda was moderate: “In spite of what happened in Kisangani, I decided that Uganda should continue to support the legitimate interests of Rwanda, but that it would not allow Rwanda to dominate in the DRC. My strategy regarding Rwanda is now double pronged. On the one hand, we have to be as understanding to them as possible because I think the problem is not theirs alone. It is a problem of the whole of Africa. The Rwanda problem started in 1959, it was not resolved by Africa, and therefore a vacuum was created, until these young people came up to their problem in their own way.
Frustration of the Ugandan Army
The Ugandan military reacted angrily to the news of the clashes. There was a strong sense of injured pride, as the media declared that the Rwandan army in Kisangani had defeated the UPDF and that it lost more than 200 men. Secret meetings were held in Kampala and attended by active and retired officers to chart out a strategy to respond to what they considered “treachery” by their Rwandan allies. Some were of the view that the relationship with Rwanda should be severed. Emotions were heightened by the appearance of senior army officers in full military combat outfits at the burials of soldiers killed in the Kisangani fighting. Major General Salim Saleh, Museveni’s brother and former chief of staff, was among the guests at the burials and declared that he was ready to be recalled to the army.
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ top brass also rejected the Joint Inquiry report, on the grounds that it favoured the RPA by not addressing all aspects of the conflict’? The report was written by Major General Jeje Odongo, the then UPDF Army Commander and Brigadier General Kayumba Nyamwasa, the then RPA Chief of Staff, after investigating the circumstances surrounding the Kisangani fighting.
Uganda blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Army for planning the Kisangani fighting in advance. According to Colonel Kahinda Otafiire, President Yoweri Musevenis advisor on security mattersat the time, who was in Kisangani during the fighting, Rwandan army officers knew that Ugandan troops in Kisangani would be outnumbered: “We never expected any trouble because we considered them our allies, even some of our repeater communication systems were mounted in the Rwandan-controlled sector.’ They also claim that Rwanda was treacherous, because they broke a ceasefire ordered by Kagame and Museveni.
Senior Ugandan army officials said that the relationship with Rwanda would never be the same after Kisangani. Rumours were still rife of a hit list of Ugandan officers in the hands of the Rwandan army. Lately, there had been attempts to stir up anti-Rwandan feelings by implicating Rwanda in the death of a senior military official, Major Rueben Ikondere, who was killed by the Mai Mai in Beni, Eastern Congo.” To defend his role in the Kisangani conflict, Brigadier James Kazini pointed out that he was working under orders. “I am still the overall commander of the UPDF in Congo. I’m on deployment as an army officer. I take orders from the appointing authorities. I don’t go by what other people say. It’s not just a matter of saying, okay, so and so is blaming me, therefore I must relinquish my duties. It’s a duty I was assigned.”
In a face-saving move, and despite UPDF’s defeat, President Yoweri Museveni promoted the officers that were commanders in Kisangani when the fighting happened: Major Noble Mayombo (RIP), Lieutenant Rogers Munyatwali to Captain, Wamba dia Wamba’s aide, Major Gervus Mugyenyi to Lieutenant Colonel. These promotions were aimed at raising UPDF’s morale and countering the public perception of a humiliated army.
Inflammatory Role of the Media
The media played a key role after the Kisangani fighting between Uganda and Rwanda. Ugandan newspapers, especially the state-controlled The New Vision, castigated the Rwandan leadership. “Hard though it might seem, try and find it in your heart to feel sorry for Rwanda and its people. Sparked off by those moments of madness in Kisangani, they are now viewed as treacherous and unreliable people with whom dealings become as tricky as holding a writhing snake.”51
The independent paper, The Monitor ran HOT headlines about the Kisangani fighting, questioned the deployment of the Ugandan troops in DRC and called for the immediate withdrawal of the UPDF. The Monitor pointed out Ugandan losses in Kisangani: “Hundreds of Ugandans feared dead, Kazini, Otafire, Mayombo under heavy bombardment.’
In Rwanda, the pro-establishment newspaper New Times attacked the Ugandan army accusing them of starting the fighting. The paper’s main target was Brigadier Kazini, whom the paper accused of harbouring hatred against the Rwandese. The New Times accused the Ugandan army of looting Congo’s wealth instead of fighting Kabila and warned that Rwanda was not going to stand by as its interests were threatened.’
Rwanda’s Efforts to End Hostilities
President Kagame visited Kampala twice during the Kisangani fighting to hold talks with President Museveni. During the first meeting on 17 August, Kagame proposed that both he and Museveni call their respective commanders and order them to stop the fighting, instead of first going through the modalities of signing a formal and permanent ceasefire agreement. Museveni agreed and both signed a basic ceasefire framework agreement that immediately led to the end of the fighting.
The following week, Kagame visited Uganda twice to sign another, more detailed agreement with Museveni, including a timeframe for the demilitarization of Kisangani, a plan to redefine the role of both armies, and the election of a mayor for the town.
On 2 September 1999 ,President Paul Kagame addressed Parliament in Rwanda. In contrast to Museveni’s defensive speech, Kagame blamed the Ugandan leadership for not being committed to an honest political solution. Kagame regretted that not enough had been done to avoid the fighting and called on all Rwandans to work for the restoration of a normal relationship with Uganda.
The Rwandan leadership blamed the fighting on elements in the Ugandan army who misled the President about what was going on in DRC. The criticism was directed at Brigadier Kazini, the Ugandan Chief of Staff, and Major General Salim Saleh for promoting antagonism between the two forces and their involvement in private business at the cost of running the army properly. Kagame stressed that the Kisangani clashes were not between the RPA and the UPDF, nor between Uganda and Rwanda, but between specific forces deployed by both sides, which had strategic differences.
Kagame addressed Parliament again on 16 September 1999, after the conclusion of the Joint Inquiry, that, in the words of his press release, “cleared the RPA of any blame … the report recorded no evidence of back stabbing, treachery, as some Ugandan authorities had alleged.” He also said that the RPA approach had been to create a joint RPA/UPDF joint command, which was rejected by the UPDF, and to organize the rebels in a unified fighting group, but that UPDF started to create other factions.
Kagame’s press release went on: “He blamed the fighting on 5-7 August on UPDF who attempted to give the verification team the false impression that Prof. Wamba controlled key parts of Kisangani. He added that the UPDF had begun to make reinforcements at the end of July, with the view to completely taking over Kisangani. On 7 August, UPDF deployed heavily in Kisangani town, digging trenches and foxholes in preparation for the battle.
By 12 August, forces from UPDF,th 9- and 65th Battalions were in Kisangani. They were already two UPDF task forces in place before these deployments and 5 tanks. The RPA had only two Battalions-61st and 75th- deployed in Kisangani at the beginning of the fighting.”
Immediately after the fighting, the Rwandan leadership took measures to ease tensions. An order barring all government officials from commenting on the fighting was issued. Grand claims of victory by some RPA officers had indeed antagonized the Ugandan leadership.
Move to Save Lusaka
Although in all their post-Kisangani meetings Uganda and Rwanda re-affirmed their commitment to the Lusaka accord, hostilities between them threatened its implementation. At the time of the fighting in Kisangani, the three rebel factions had not yet signed the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. It was feared that the fragmentation of the rebellion into smaller factions could stop the peace process altogether.
Rwanda scored well on the diplomatic front by devising the formula that secured the rebels’ signature on the Lusaka agreement. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) heads of state meeting that took place in Maputo in August 1999 called on both Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda to explain to other regional leaders the impact of their tensions on the implementation of the Lusaka agreement.
Both leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the Lusaka agreement, and presented a proposal that led to the signing of the agreement by the two RCD factions on 31 August 1999. Rwanda prevailed over the RCD-Goma faction to allow Wamba dia Wamba of RCD-Kisangani to sign the agreement separately, as part of a comprehensive strategy to settle the rift with Uganda. After the fifty-one founders of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) signed the Lusaka agreement, international attention shifted from the conflict between Uganda and Rwanda to the implementation of the Lusaka agreement.