By Melodie Mukansonera
A new report by the International Crisis Group has singled out Uganda as “a key player fueling the upsurge of violence in the Ituri Province” in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 37-page report – released on 15 this month under the title, “DR Congo: Ending the Cycle of Violence in Ituri” – presents a chronology of the events that led to this upsurge in fighting. It also analyses “the conflict’s cyclical nature and its underlying causes,” and identifies its main actors in order to understand why it persists.
The report partly states that, “Uganda has played a bigger role in fueling the Ituri region violence through different means, including hosting those that are commanding the conflict in the province. “Several Congolese actors who were active in previous Congo wars are involved in the conflict in Ituri and operate from Uganda,” the report states.
“Among these different actors, include former members of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, the Kisangani Liberation Movement (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie Kisangani/Mouvement de Libération) who are playing a leading role in the conflict,” reads the report.
Also implicated is the predominantly Nande group, led by former rebel leader Mbusa Nyamwisi “staunchly supported by Uganda”, that controlled parts of North Kivu and Ituri. “Some of its members are still based in Uganda, in plain view of the authorities, and maintain contact with armed groups active in North Kivu and Ituri,” says the report that holds back no punches.
Among those that the report names operating with such impunity with the support of Kampala are Yves Mandro Kahwa Panga (known as “Chief Kahwa”), who has been moving back and forth between Ituri and Kampala. This rebel chieftain is considered to be posing one of the more serious threats to the situation in Ituri, as stated by the International Crisis Group report.
Based on the nature of the Ituri conflict and Uganda’s involvement, the ICG has recommended that the Ituri conflict be put on the agenda for the next Quadripartite Summit, which will bring together Angola, the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group’s report comes in the wake of another one published by the United Nations last month about conflict minerals whereby Uganda again is strongly implicated. That report indicates that about US$ 100 million of Congolese conflict gold is trafficked through Uganda monthly.
The UN estimates that at least 1.1 tonnes of gold were smuggled out of Ituri province alone in 2019. “More than 95 percent of gold exports from Uganda in 2019, which totaled just over 25 tonnes, were not of Ugandan origin. The estimate was based on 2018 production, and 2019 exports data,” said the Reuters news agency, quoting the UN report.