Uganda: November 5, 2001


Rwanda And Uganda - On The Brink Of Africa's Newest War?- Uganda and Rwanda, never the most-comfortable of allies in the DRCongo War (1998 - 2001), are on the verge of their own nasty little fight. Envoys from the two countries will meet at the New York City UN headquarters on 8 November, two days after the expected meeting between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame in London mediated by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Secretary for Overseas Development, Claire Short.

If diplomacy fails, the two armies would most likely fight it out in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC's) Nord-Kivu province, rather than on their shared border. Ugandan and Rwandan units had fought each other before in 1999 and 2000, in the DRCongolese city of Kisangani (about 500 kilometers/300 miles from either country).

The situation soured on 28 August, when newspapers in both capitals published a letter reportedly written by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to Secretary Short, complaining of Rwanda's plans to attack. Museveni accused Rwanda of using dissident Ugandan army officers to recruit young Ugandans to join three military training camps situated around the Rwandan capital Kigali. Museveni also feared that Rwanda had built a force of 100,000 while re-equipping and positioning itself in a hostile fashion.

The potential epicenter for this new war is the DRCongo town of Kanyabayongo in the Nord-Kivu province, atop a mountain that juts above the Rwindi plain. The town is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the Ugandan border and 140 kilometers (85 miles) by road north of Goma.

Goma is the headquarters for the Rwandan-backed rebel group Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). At the end of October, Rwandan troops in South Kivu and parts of North Kivu Provinces had infiltrated into areas controlled by the Ugandans. One advance was moving toward Kanya-Bayonga (around 150km south of Butembo) and another in the direction of Lake Edward. The AFP reported Rwandan government forces along the Kabasha escarpment (overlooked by Kanyabayonga) and on the main north-south road. Civilians also reported Rwandan soldiers stationed to the west, at Kibirizi, and at Vitshumbi, to the east and on the shores of Lake Edward. 

Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UDPF) units took up positions in Loufo (about 10 kilometers/six miles to the northwest), Kirumba (15 kilometers/ten miles north) and Lutunguru (40 kilometers/25 miles northwest). The UDPF's 77th Battalion had been in Kanyabayonga, but withdrew via Butembo, Beni and was at home station in Mbarara.

Meanwhile, the UPDF reported withdrawing it's 35th Battalion from Buta, in accordance with the Lusaka ceasefire agreement on the DRC. Uganda had already withdrawn 11 battalions from DRC (previously stationed in Kanyabayongo, Bafwasende and Bafwabwoli, Isiro, Lisala, Basankuusu, Gbadolite, Dongo and Gemena). However, the Ugandan newspaper "The Monitor" suggested that the UDPF was being less-than-truthful about troop movements.

However, former UDPF Chief of Logistics and Engineering (CLE), Col. Fred Bogere, wrote in an internal army report titled "Budget Sensitisation Circular" that combat readiness had been seriously undermined by lack of resources and corruption. However, UDPF Chief of Staff MG James Kazini insisted that the army was in good enough shape to defend the country.

On 24 October, Ugandan Defense minister Amama Mbabazi told his Parliament that that UDPF had not deployed on the Rwanda border, although some units were moved in south-west Uganda - after dissident UDPF officers LTCs Anthony Kyakabale and Samson Minande declared war on Uganda.

Ugandan Defense Minister Amama Mbabazi met with his Rwandan counterpart, Colonel Emmanuel Habyarimana, on 29 October in Kabale. Uganda withdrew one battalion from the Kikagati border point (near Tanzania) and redeployed it 25km away at Nshungezi.

Communications in the DRCongo are spotty, at best. In a complaint to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym, MONUC) on 22 October, Uganda asserted that Rwandan troops and their allies had seized control of Kanyabayonga on the 20th (following a three-day assault). By the 25th, the UN Mission had determined that the reports were "groundless". - Adam Geibel


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