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DRC-UGANDA: Kampala will stay out of Congo, Museveni declares

KAMPALA, 8 October 2003 (IRIN) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni declared on Wednesday that his country would not be drawn back into conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), regardless of whichever Ugandan rebels were using instability in the country's eastern provinces as a cloak for their activities.

"We shall never go back into Congo," Museveni said in his strongest verbal commitment yet to the Luanda agreement of September 2002 between Uganda and the government of the DRC.

At a news conference at his official home in Kampala, Museveni said that such a commitment had been made possible by recent developments in DRC, particularly the new transitional government representing a wide consensus of the country's former belligerents.

"Since we have a transitional government [in place in the Congo], we are not legitimised to go into Congo," he said. "Why would we? They are our allies in that government."

He said that the recent deployment of a battalion of Ugandan troops to the Ugandan side of the border with DRC was necessary to prevent a threat from "plotting remnants of a defeated terrorist organisation called the ADF".

Two weeks ago, Ugandan intelligence sources said they had evidence that the Allied Democratic Forces - a rebel group led by Tabliq Islamist rebels that terrorised Uganda in the 1990s - were regrouping in their former bases in DRC.

In the late 1990s, the rebels devastated western Uganda, attacking villages, trading centres and technical colleges, and killing and abducting hundreds of civilians. About 70,000 people were thought to have been displaced by the rebels by 1998.

The threat from Ugandan rebels operating in DRC was the official reason Uganda joined Rwanda to oust Mobutu Sese Seke's government in 1997. Since then, Uganda has repeatedly said that its involvement in the DRC was because of the threat posed by "terrorists" hiding there, which it said had enjoyed sponsorship from a succession of Kinshasa governments.

Museveni named Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba and Regional Cooperation Minister Mbusa Nyamwisi as three "close allies" of Uganda whom he said were able to deal appropriately with Ugandan dissidents operating in eastern DRC.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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