By Hereward Holland and Elias Biryabarema
KINSHASA – Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has agreed to a joint operation with Uganda’s army against Islamist rebels accused of suicide bombings in Kampala this month, two diplomatic sources said.
The Islamic State said their local affiliate, known as the Allied Democratic Forces https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/who-are-islamic-states-affiliates-central-africa-2021-11-16 (ADF), were behind a Nov. 16 attack which killed seven people, including the three bombers, and injured dozens more.
News reports about the proposed cross-border campaign, which is yet to be announced publicly, has sparked anxiety amongst some Congolese, who recall Uganda’s role in the brutal civil wars that ended in 2003.
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.
Tshisekedi’s deputy spokesperson Tina Salama said on Twitter: “The best thing would be (would have been) to wait for the official statement of the Congolese government which will be issued shortly to clarify the situation.”
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.