Kampala denies aiding M23 rebel fighters

The government has denied reports that it is supporting the M23 rebel group fighting against Kinshasa in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Highly placed sources told Daily Monitor that President Museveni was in touch with his counterpart, Joseph Kabila, over the matter last week and clarified that Uganda had not taken sides in the matter.

Mr Kabila told Congolese state television on Saturday that he had questioned Uganda over its alleged support for the rebel M23 movement, and that Kampala had denied any involvement, the AFP news agency reported yesterday.

Kabila’s first public comments on the matter came on the same day he sent a special envoy to deliver a message to President Museveni.

Mr Alexander Luba Tembo, DRC’s vice prime minister and Defence minister, delivered the message to President Museveni at his country home in Rwakitura.

A press statement from State House said the two officials “discussed a number of issues of mutual interest between the DRC and Uganda and particularly deliberated on the security situation in Eastern DRC”.

Sources familiar with the matter told Daily Monitor the Congolese special envoy showed evidence of what Kinshasa claims is Rwanda’s support to the M23 rebels.

Kigali denies the allegation, which was also made in a report by a UN Group of Experts appointed to investigate the insecurity in the war-rife eastern DR Congo.

President Kabila on Saturday repeated claims by his government on Kigali’s alleged involvement in the fighting, including the alleged presence of military forces from the country.

“As for Rwanda’s presence, that is an open secret,” Kabila said in his first public comments on the matter. “Can diplomacy be the answer? In any case there are three roads to a solution: military, political and diplomatic, or all three at the same time.”

Government officials have been keen to distance themselves from reports of sightings of UPDF soldiers in DR Congo.

No interest in war
Kampala is keen to avoid getting drawn into a third war in Congo. Relations with Kinshasa have improved in recent years and DR Congo has granted the UPDF limited permission to hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels hiding in parts of the vast neighbouring country.

Although the Allied Democratic Front rebel group maintains bases in eastern DR Congo, senior military and intelligence officials say Uganda is very reluctant to “get drawn back into Congo either directly or through proxies”.

Despite robust denials by Kigali, Rwanda’s alleged involvement in the conflict has already drawn criticism from the United States, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands which have all either cut or suspended aid over the matter.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected in Kampala this week to meet President Museveni over regional security, including DR Congo and Somalia.

President Museveni is also expected to convene a summit on the region’s security in early August by virtue of his current chairmanship of the International Conference of the Great Lakes’ Region.

The conference offers a forum for 10 countries in the region, including Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya and Sudan to discuss security matters.

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Source: Daily Monitor