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Analysts Say Ugandan Troops Heading to DRC to Make Amends for the Past


FILE - Ugandan troops are seen on a road in the Beni district of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 8, 2021. More Ugandan troops will be sent to DRC at the end of November 2022 to help fight rebels.

The Ugandan army on Monday said it will send 1,000 troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to join a regional force to help fight rebels and end decades of instability.

Uganda already has hundreds of troops in the DRC, sent a year ago to help fight the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic State-allied rebel group.

Analysts say the deployments are part of Uganda's effort to make up for past involvement in Congo's deadly civil wars.

The ADF was blamed for suicide attacks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in November 2021 that killed four people.

Uganda will be the third country to deploy troops to the DRC under the East African Community force after hundreds of Kenyan and Burundian troops arrived in recent weeks.

Brigadier General Felix Kulaigye, spokesman for the army that is known officially as the Uganda People's Defense Force, said troops will deploy by the end of November.

“Every war in this region affects others,” he said. “So, if you can avoid war, you can end it. It’s an advantage for everyone.”

A 2013 peace deal that integrated into the DRC military some members of the March 23 Movement rebels, known as M23, fell apart last year.

Fighting resumed and M23 has since been taking ground in the east from the Congolese military and, in recent weeks, moving in on the city of Goma.

The U.N. said the fighting has displaced at least 240,000 people internally and across the border in Uganda in the last year.

Alexander Rosero is a research fellow with the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg. Speaking to VOA by a messaging application, he said the regional force should be more effective than bilateral deals.

Those between Rwanda and the DRC, as well as Uganda and the DRC, have not been helpful, he said.

“Because everyone would eventually emerge a loser where diplomacy and negotiation are not given a chance,” he said. “This time around, this is an opportunity for them to actually correct their wrong mistakes.”

Uganda, in August, made a surprise war reparation payment of $65 million to the DRC for losses its troops caused during wars and occupations in the 1990s.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice in February ordered Uganda to pay $325 million to the DRC for its 1998-2003 invasion.

While Kinshasa has welcomed Ugandan troops for the East African force it has rejected Rwanda’s and accused Kigali of supporting M23 rebels, a charge it denies.

Despite Kampala’s efforts to make up for the past, not everyone agrees with the DRC’s allowing Ugandan troops on the ground.

Remy Kasindi, coordinator for the Bukavu-based aid group Collective Amka Congo, said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, made a mistake with a November 6 tweet supporting M23.

Kasindi said the challenge Congo has now is Rwanda’s support for M23. But Kasindi said Museveni’s son’s tweet annoyed the Congolese, who used to trust the Ugandan army.

On Sunday, Kainerugaba seemed to step back slightly, with a tweet supporting calls by Kenya and Rwanda for M23 to withdraw from the territory it recently captured.

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, was to meet Wednesday with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi in Angola’s capital, Luanda, for another round of peace talks.

Rosero said East African countries sending troops to the DRC is part of efforts to put pressure on Rwanda at the negotiation table.

“It is a signal that they are giving that we are serious,” he said. “And here is evidence of why we are prepared to do whatever it takes to confront this crisis.”

The East African force will have its work cut out for it. DRC has more than 120 armed groups operating across the country’s east.

U.N. peacekeepers in the DRC, despite having more than 16,000 personnel and a 20-year presence, have been hit with violent protests in the last few months for failing to bring stability.

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