Uganda has dismissed the United Nations (UN) accusations that it is supporting the M23 rebels, fighting against the Congolese government in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since April, by ensuring weapons and other forms of assistance.
Uganda also announced that it would not continue to mediate the conflict between the DRC and the M23 rebels, should the UN Security Council endorse these allegations.
The claims that the Ugandan government is so quick to dismiss are contained in a UN report, written for the UN Security Council's Congo sanctions committee and leaked to Reuters last week. Apart from denouncing Uganda for providing weapons and technical support to the M23, the report also condemns the country for allowing the rebel group’s political unit to operate from its capital city, Kampala.
While the report remains formally unpublished, on Friday, the UN Security Council released an official statement in which it announced that it intends to impose sanctions on the M23 as well as on countries that violate the UN arms embargo on the DRC. This could be considered an indirect hint at both Rwanda and Uganda. The UN’s statement comes likely as a response to the Congolese government’s demands for sanctions against its two neighbors over their alleged support for the M23.
Ugandan officials have announced that their government has contacted the UN in New York to clarify if the leaked allegations are in fact contained in the report. They have further specified that, regardless of the report’s actual content, the information leaked has already compromised Uganda’s image as a neutral mediator between the DRC government and the rebels. Uganda has also emphasized that, even if the UN denied the accusations, but nevertheless imposed sanctions on the rebel group, Uganda would end its mediation role.
In the meantime, the M23 rebel group is claiming that it is currently in indirect negotiations with the Congolese government. The negotiations are allegedly taking place in Kampala and are mediated by Ugandan President Museveni. According to the M23, the Congolese government is currently losing the conflict and is therefore obliged to negotiate with the rebels. However, the government denies negotiating with a group that it considers to be formed of murderers.
As a result of its fighting, the M23 has already displaced over half a million people in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda and where the M23 mainly operates. The M23 rebel group consists mainly of former fighters in the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a Tutsi rebel movement. It was formed after an unsuccessful attempt to integrate the fighters in Congo’s army in 2009.
North Kivu is an economically important province, due to its oil reserves. In the recent past, Uganda and Congo have fought over regulating border oil exploitation and resulted in the signing of the 2007 Ngurdoto Accords. Its interests in the province’s oil resources might be precisely why Uganda has been so interested in mediating the Congo-M23 conflict. Do you think that Uganda should continue as mediator or let another, entirely neutral, country take up this role?
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