Rwanda wanted to dominate, we wanted to empower Congolese:Here, Museveni explains the ideological differences between Uganda and Rwanda on DR Congo’s political situation then.
WRITTEN BY OBSERVER MEDIA LTDIn Part XI of these series, we bring you the last part of the speech President Museveni delivered to MPs on August 30, 1999, about Uganda’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the UPDF later fought with their Rwandan allies.
I need to inform you, Honourable Members, that some of these things that we do are very well calculated. We are not adventurists; we have our scientific plans of doing things. In all these activities, we have our silent allies whom I do not need to mention here. They are not in Congo but we always consult with them and we have been in Congo with their knowledge.
These allies are in Africa and abroad. If President Bizimungu had said that Uganda should withdraw and let Rwanda handle the situation, I was of course going to discuss with these silent allies and then I would have come and talked to all of you and the army. However, President Bizimungu would not hear of withdrawing our forces and yet they would not agree to the rational measures we proposed.
There must be some reason for the irrational behaviour in respect of Kisangani but we have not yet discovered what it is. Although there was fighting in Kisangani, it has forced everyone to find a solution. Furthermore, the Congolese Goma rebels who had refused to sign have now agreed to sign the Lusaka treaty and the peace process in Congo will start.
Therefore, this limited fighting in Kisangani has actually brought about all these changes. I think that everybody has now realised that it is not good to play games with this situation. I think that Major General Kagame is serious, from what I have seen subsequent to these events, because he has faithfully implemented whatever we have agreed upon. I can bear witness for him on this.
Regarding the deaths suffered by the UPDF, we could have had a lot of deaths because of the lack of knowledge that we had an enemy in Kisangani; but the good training of our soldiers minimised this. There were 38 deaths including one Captain Tom Kalizibwa.
Our Rwandese brothers also lost a lot of people. I must, therefore, salute the companies of the UPDF 65th Battalion which were in the town without enough supplies; without support weapons; without being prepared to fight - but they put up a fight for four days until in some areas they ran out of ammunition and pulled out. In some of the positions they stayed on until after the cease-fire and they withdrew as part of the disengagement.
Why did the RPA attack the UPDF?
The fundamental question to ask, however, is why did anybody start this conflict between the Rwandese and ourselves. I do not yet have an answer to that question because it was such a foolish action; it was dangerous for them; and yet they did it. I do not know what they wanted to achieve. I think there are several explanations.
One is the general lack of sufficient preparation by many cadres in Africa. When we were fighting in Luweero, in order to draw the attention of the West, which had neglected our cause, I sent Jet Mwebaze to Masuliita-Kiroro road and told him to kidnap a Red Cross European worker. He kidnapped a French doctor who was working for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He brought him to me where I was in Ngoma, nearly 100 miles from Kampala.
I talked with him and called my High Command, who were all still young people and not yet ideologically formed. I asked them what they thought we should do with the Red Cross man. You would not believe the proposals they brought forward! At that time, we were under pressure from Obote’s forces and one of our generals said: “We should hold the man until Obote withdraws his forces from attacking us.”
I replied: “But, Mr General, how can you make an innocent man be the one to fight for your weakness?”
What horrified me was that instead of building up our capacity to defeat Obote and expel his army, our commanders wanted to take short cuts which, in any case, would not have worked. Therefore, one of my explanations is that our RPA brothers have never had time to develop sufficiently to know how to do some of the things.
They think that taking short cuts here and there will get them to their aim. Another explanation I have been hearing is that the RPA wanted to dominate Congo but that we are stopping them. For our part, we are interested in empowering the Congolese and it seems the Rwandese do not like it. However, even if we were obstructing whatever plans they had on Congo, how did they think that they could attack us and get away with it? It is very short-sighted, indeed.
Another explanation which could make some little bit of sense could be that they wanted to kill Wamba. Wamba’s leadership has got some potential because they are intellectuals; they are from different parts of Congo; and they can be an important force in the future.
If the Rwandese leaders think that this potential interferes with whatever interests they may have in Congo, they may want to eliminate them. But even then, where would that leave them in respect of the rest of Africa; and in respect of Congo itself?
Finally what is my assessment of the situation in Congo? I think the situation is moving very well. We now have the Lusaka treaty and our efforts will now be geared towards implementing it. By this treaty, we are no longer isolated as we were at the beginning.
When the war started, it was Uganda and Rwanda, with a few silent supporters, but the Lusaka treaty has now reunited us with Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and all the African French-speaking countries. Therefore, apart from this very poor management between us and the Rwandese, I think that the question of the Congo is as good as solved.
We should not panic because when we say that struggle is sacrifice, this is what we mean. We have made sacrifices in Congo but we are going to get very good results. We do not have any hidden agenda in Congo; our interests are clear and transparent. There is no need to panic because we are much stronger than we have ever been. Therefore, from every angle – military, diplomatic, political – the situation is excellent.
I would, therefore, urge Parliament to support the continued presence of Uganda in Congo as part of the joint military committee. We are in a position to play a decisive role on the future of Congo. My strategy regarding Rwanda is now double-pronged. On the one hand, we have to be as understanding to them as possible because I think the problem is not theirs alone – it is the problem of the whole of Africa.
The Rwanda problem started in 1959; it was not resolved by Africa; therefore, a vacuum was created, until these young people came up to solve their problem in their own way. Similarly, Mobutu’s dictatorship, which lasted 32 years, decapitated leadership in Congo.
Therefore, the leaderships in these countries do not yet have enough experience to manage some of the situations. On the other hand, we have made it clear to the Rwandese that if these agreements are not implemented, or if any other attack against our forces takes place, we shall reply in a very heavy way.
I think, therefore, that all the political leaders should support that double readiness – to understand the infancy of our African groups but, at the same time, be ready to defend the interests of Uganda; the interests of the Congolese people; and also the interests of the population of Rwanda, as we have always done