UPDF deploy troops as M23 make inroads
- As the uneasy peace holds at the Uganda-Congo border, Lt Col Nahamya has called for vigilance among Ugandans in the border communities. It has not been lost upon him that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)—an Islamist rebel group—could make the most of the chaos.
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has deployed its troops along the Uganda-Congo border in Kanungu District as the M23 rebels’ relentless advance towards the Ishasha border continues.
Lt Col Robert Nahamya, the commander of the 307 Brigade, on Thursday confirmed the deployment, saying it is intended to shield Ugandans who are a part of the border communities from the armed conflict’s spillover effects. The 307 Brigade is deployed in the western districts of Kanungu and Rukungiri.
Lt Col Nahamya told Sunday Monitor that “the UPDF has deployed its forces to protect [Ugandans staying along the border] and their properties” as well as “ensuring that the international boundary remains safe despite the armed conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Whereas the commander urged “the border communities to stay calm”, many people remain in a grip of panic. The picture fleeing Congolese nationals continue to paint has not helped matters.
They collectively say that the M23 rebels have captured a number of trading centres and villages barely 20km away from the Ishasha Border.
The rebels have continued to send mixed signals with their chaotic cocktail of territory surrendered here and captured there, threatening the long-term peace of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They have for instance dragged their feet this week over moving out of the occupied territories in the North Kivu Province’s localities of Kisigari, and Rugari.
Schedules of respective withdrawal had to be rejigged even as troops from the East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) began reconnaissance patrols. Rumangabo, which was taken over two months ago, on Friday became the latest conquered territory to revert to the Congolese army (FARDC). One resident told the AFP that the locality had previously been an “open-air prison” with people “even scared to go to the field just to get water.”
In a dispatch, the EACRF said the patrols are “aimed at assuring the locals of their safety and assessing their needs towards finding a wholesome approach in addressing their challenges for peaceful co-existence for socioeconomic prosperity.”
Their withdrawal from Kibumba on December 22, 2022, and the military base of Rumangabo on January 6, 2023, notwithstanding, the M23 made heavy weather of complying with the Luanda mini-summit of November 23, 2022. Kinshasa’s insistence that it won’t negotiate with the rebels it likens to “terrorists” means the eastern DRC remains a powder keg.
As the uneasy peace holds at the Uganda-Congo border, Lt Col Nahamya has called for vigilance among Ugandans in the border communities. It has not been lost upon him that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)—an Islamist rebel group—could make the most of the chaos.
“Local leaders and residents in the border communities should be vigilant by reporting suspicious characters that cross from the Democratic Republic of Congo into their villages to the security operatives as a way of denying chance to the enemies of Uganda that have been operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo with an objective of creating insecurity in our country,” Lt Col Nahamya told Sunday Monitor.
Since the M23’s latest onslaught, a daily average of 20 Congolese refugees have made their way into Uganda. Most of them end up in Matanda refugee transit camp as per Mr Gad Ahimbisibwe Rugaju, the Kanungu Deputy Resident District Commissioner. Mr Rugaju told Sunday Monitor that the refugees are screened for security reasons before being relocated to the settlement camps in western Uganda.
“We have arrested about 12 Congolese nationals with forged travel documents after they hired private rooms at Ishasha border town for luxury purposes,” he revealed, adding, “The police are investigating the matter for possible prosecution.”
One of the fleeing Congolese refugees returned a positive test for Covid-19 and was isolated at Ishasha Border post on Thursday.
The fighting that erupted between the M23 rebels and the Congolese government forces in March last year has forced nearly 70,000 Congolese nationals to seek refuge in Kisoro District before they were relocated to different settlement camps in western Uganda.
The fighting has also resulted in the capture of the Bunagana and Kitagoma border posts with Uganda in Kisoro District.