Uganda threatens to withdraw troops from missions, UN distances self and Congo circus continues.

On Friday, Uganda’s Premier announced Uganda would pull its troops out of all peacekeeping mission over accusations that Uganda and some generals were backing M23 in Eastern DRC.

But like most people said, the threat was politicking which Uganda seems to gain an upper hand since the UNSC president has already said the report doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the UN.

Could the views of UN be far from the contents of the report or could they be closer but UNSC will play safe in light of Uganda’s threats?

The UN Group of experts report will be out in about two weeks and seems by that time, Uganda and Rwanda and UN will have reached a settlement. This leaves the people of Congo in watching the same of old games.

Mineral looting vs security concerns

Uganda called the allegations in UN report baseless and complained that the UN wasn’t giving them credit where they have done well but this isn’t convincing. Our history in Congo shows that for every warlord that comes out strong, there’s a godfather in the neighbouring country.

This is done either by top generals in the armies with a blind eye of the presidents or big companies and agents who are trading in guns for minerals.  And many times the companies have a link to the top leadership in east African countries. However this is not to ignore role of western and Chinese companies in this conflict.

At the same time one cannot deny the security risk that an ungoverned Eastern DRC poses to neighbouring countries. So the interest in DRC by neighbouring countries, Uganda and Rwanda included is not merely based minerals.

In 2011 a DRC Group of Experts report found that a Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had regained control over territory that it had previously lost to FARDC (Congolese army). This is not a secret hidden from the Ugandan regime. With guns from Congo Army and other criminal networks, ADF could get stronger and launch fresh attacks in Uganda.

But the same report found that Congolese gold is still in much in demand. “Most of the gold trade in the country goes unrecorded, and most transactions are concluded in neighboring cities such as Kampala, Bujumbura, Nairobi or Mwanza port in Tanzania.”

The Group of Experts found substantial discrepancies, of more than three tons, between gold import statistics provided by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates and those exports claimed by the Government of Uganda.

Photo taken by Tunisian photographer Sophia Baraket at Rutshuru M23 Meeting Eastern Congo.

So when Uganda’s Premier Amama Mbabazi asserts “…there are actors in the UN who are not able to understand that there can be principled actors in Africa and who think that all actors are looking for minerals like the imperialists did”, he’s not being honest enough.

Both the UN and regional governments have buried their heads and looked away from more positive engagement in DRC. Western governments have for long opted for UN to deal with DRC – never mind the fact that they never gave MONUSCO the right mandate to deal with the reality in DRC.

They have spent billions of dollars to fund a peacekeeping mission in DRC for over ten years and still no improvement in security in Eastern DRC.  The political process in Congo which is at heart of the governance problem has not received much attention.

So UN finances MONUSCO with no results and asks regional governments to back off. In turn governments officially say they have no hand in DRC and quote you tripartite agreements but out of sight they do the opposite.

Since Kinshasa is not in charge, the regimes deal with who’s moving things in different parts of eastern Congo- even if sometimes it means working with a new warlord every year.

So for Uganda and Rwanda to deny any involvement in Eastern DRC is like saying we are not concerned about our security. Western governments and UNSC continue to dwell only on the mineral smuggling and sideline a more positive role for regional countries in solving the DRC conflict.

That’s why for years we have seen accusations and denials, then the fire burns out and we go back to business as usual until another rebel group comes up.

So the threats posed by the new UN report on the role of Uganda and Rwanda in fresh fighting in DRC is followed by denials and no honest engagement will come out.

Even if Congolese authorities are supported in disarming and demobilizing the M23 as the UN has called, the challenges of attaining peace in Congo will remain. Not until those close (African governments) are put in a more responsible position than a hands off approach, which the UN and the west has pushed for since the end of 1990s, will we see secure and governed East DRC.

Until then, these countries, directly or by using agents, will take turns to go into Congo and reap quick gains. The international community will continue to trust those from far removed from the conflict to deliver peace in vain.

To expect that hands-off policy for regional governments will work in DRC is daydreaming!  Regional governments will continue to be dishonest about their interests and fears in Eastern DRC unless a new way to engage is brought forward.

10 thoughts on “Uganda threatens to withdraw troops from missions, UN distances self and Congo circus continues.

  1. Rosebell, your article gets much closer to the dynamics at play than what most of your East African colleagues have written – which seem to parrot either Ugandan or Rwandan governments’ talking points. We would caution though the idea that “UN has distanced itself from the recent report.” Prudence is necessary especially when the UN has not issued an official statement on the report. The below is an official UN statement on the group of experts from October 19

    “The Security Council expresses its full support to the UN Group of Experts of the 1533 Committee and calls for enhanced cooperation between all States, particularly those in the region, and the Group of Experts, encourages further that all parties and all States ensure cooperation with the Group of Experts by individuals and entities within their jurisdiction or under their control and reiterates its demand that all parties and all States ensure the safety of its members, and unhindered and immediate access, in particular to persons, documents and sites the Group of Experts deems relevant to the execution of its mandate.”

    With all the consternation about UN reports, they are for all intents and purposes corroborating what Africans (Congolese) have reported for the past 16 years – it is only now that members of the UN and some western nations are starting to listen instead of blocking these reports at the UN while Congolese perish and Rwandan and Ugandan leaders presented to the world as “renaissance leaders.” See here where Congolese NGOs reported in early Summer the presence of Ugandan military in DRC –

    1. Thanks but thats a statement from October. the UNSC president has a statement out in face of Uganda’s threats! Of course it is important to have these reports to document and bring out the reality but what will the UN do with it is what interests me more.

      I dont expect a handsoff approach on DRC to work. The truth there r real interests from regional governments and they must be used ina positive way. When you support hands off approach ina situation where Uganda and Rwanda will pretend along with UN it wont work!!

      1. Thanks Rosebell. Can you send us the statement or link to the statement issued by the UNSC president?

        Not clear what you mean by hands off approach but if after 16 years Rwanda and Uganda wont even admit their involvement in DRC in the face of the tremendous suffering of their fellow Africans then it is really difficult to get on a path to stability.

        To the degree that there has been a hands off approach, it comes from the donor nations’ actions toward Rwanda and Uganda whereby they have given them carte blanche in the Congo and covered for them at the UN. This changed in June when the Obama Administration partially implemented a US Law (PL 109-456) that calls for the US government to withhold aid from Congo’s neighbors if they destabilized the DRC.

        What we are seeing today is accountability at the international level from the West notwithstanding the 2005 ICJ ruling against Uganda. Previously Rwanda and Ugandan were held accountable militarily by SADC (1998). If the darlings (Rwanda & Uganda) of the west are not held to account arriving at peace and stability in the DRC will be made that more difficult.

      2. Oh Forgot to answer your question – if past is prologue, in the absence of any pressure, the UN will do with these reports what they have done in the past, bury them or take no action at the request of Rwanda and Uganda’s historic protectors (US & UK) at the UN. The 2010 UN Mapping Exercise Report was far more damning than anything published recently and both Rwanda and Uganda were assured by Ban Ki Moon that no action would be taken on it.

  2. Nice article Rosebell. I would not rest at what the UNSC says coz that’s a “political” statement. A diplomatic way of saying we have not yet discussed and come up with a position on the new report. That disclaimer is actually at the beginning of many reports written by “independent” experts commissioned by the UN. Found that out when I googled “the views expressed by the experts “do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.””. That said I think the failure of the UN is down to not matching the mandate of the “peace keeping”force with the nature of the situation on the ground. If there is no peace, it should have the mandate to go a step further into combat otherwise more money shall continue to be wasted on keeping peace.

  3. While Uganda and Rwanda’s history in DRC has been murky, I still think it is difficult to defend the idea that Uganda’s side of the story should not be heard. It is only fair that the UN Experts talk to Uganda officials, and give some consideration to what they say. Secondly, the mission in Somalia is a UN mission. The UN Experts group are “independent” consultants hired by the UN. If Uganda is doing so much evil in DRC, and it might well be guilty, how does the UN justify trusting it with the role it plays in Somalia?

  4. The truth is, i do not trust that Uganda would invest it’s efforts where it’s not gaining. you can be sure that there’s always a catch somewhere wherever our president decides to deploy troops. independent reports and opinions have shown that Uganda is getting a lot of money from the Somalia mission and the Generals are diverting it to their personal gain at the expense of the soldiers on ground and the somali people themselves. therefore, if reports that there are ugandan troops in DRC have any iota of truth, you can almost be sure someone in this government is gaining from that war. it is not the first time that it’s happening. Personally, i think that the threat to withdraw troops from those missions is just that, “a threat”. but i don’t think that our leader has the will or even the support of his comrades in arms to withdraw considering the number of “mouths” at stake.

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