The Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has launched a programme of repairing damaged roads in the eastern DR Congo after it entered the country on Nov. 30, to join the Congolese army in fighting rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who have been wreaking havoc in the two countries for over 20 years now.
The roads are being repaired to facilitate the movement of UPDF soldiers as well as their equipment from their home bases in Uganda into the eastern DR Congo where the joint operations are going on.
“The road is not actually good for us to continue using without some repairs. We have to tarry a little, for about a week, to give ourselves time to open a better route for our heavy vehicles,” said Major Peter Mugisa, a UPDF information officer who also made allusion to the water problems they have been having.
Before the UPDF entered the Virunga Park in DR Congo, tents of the UPDF were already in place in Mukakati village, where the Ugandan army had been tracking the ADF rebels and setting up an advance post.
For over a week now, columns of the Ugandan army in four-wheeled drives, pick-ups, water cannons, armoured cars, and gun-mounted vehicles have been passing daily through the Nobili border post which is about 13 km to the east.
While waiting for a solution to the water problems, water cannons have been going to Uganda to fetch water for the troops which they bring back every afternoon.
Locals in the border towns in DR Congo have been expressing concerns over the possibility of the Ugandans coming in for a long haul.
Uganda and Rwanda have in the past been accused by DR Congo of contributing to the destabilisation of eastern DR Congo for decades now.
However, many Congolese also expressed the hope that they would pay any price for the return of peace to their country.
“We have confidence because the Ugandan soldiers have entered with the type of arms which truly correspond with combatants going to war and that gives us hope,” said Papy Basweki, a civil servant in Nobili.
“We the population are going to support the Ugandans and our army is also going to collaborate with them.”
For Samy Kabonaba, President of the youth parliament in the Watalinga chiefdom, “even the devil would be welcome if he succeeds in defeating the armed groups. The killings must be stopped.”
He said getting the Ugandans involved in the fight against armed groups in eastern DR Congo was due to the shortcomings of the Congolese army, even when North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been under a state of siege for about seven months.
“The exceptional measure was intended to give all powers to the military but it has not permitted them to stop the violence,” the youth president declared.
“We have suffered for a very long time. We have no longer been farming because of the insecurity”, explained Zawadi Pendeza, a thirty-four-year-old lady who also expressed happiness at seeing the Ugandan army, which looks stronger and better equipped, arrive, adding that “they should limit their actions at the level of their mission here.”
On the highway linking Nobili to Mukakati are roadblocks mounted by the armies of the two countries, the Congolese FARDC and the Ugandan UPDF, who have been controlling the documents and luggage of travelers.
“Ugandan soldiers have been fraternising with the Congolese populations. One Ugandan soldier can be seen drinking beer with a group of Congolese while one has just bought a juice drink for a little girl. Motorcycle taxis have been circulating freely and cocoa seeds can be seen drying in the sun. For now, the interaction between the Congolese and Ugandans is perfect,” a civil society activist who opted for anonymity opined.
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