BY CHARLES KAZOOBA IN KAMPALA
The presence of Interahamwe militias in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was given much priority during talks between Kampala and Kinshasa early this week.
Uganda's Defence Minister, Crispus Kiyonga, said on Wednesday that his government's initial talks with the DRC revolved around the Interahamwe and other negative forces holed up in the eastern part of the vast equatorial country.
"We have discussed Interahamwe and other negative forces at every meeting with the DRC authorities," Kiyonga said.
He added that Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa, discussed the matter with DRC President, Joseph Kabila, in Kinshasa this week.
The development follows an attack in south western Uganda on August 9 by suspected Interahamwe. Three people were killed when machete-wielding armed men speaking a mixture of Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili attacked Butogota Trading Centre, according to government.
The assault on Uganda was the third in less than two weeks.
On July 29, Congolese government forces captured four Ugandan soldiers and four days later, the DRC army attacked a Ugandan barge on Rukwanzi, the controversial island on Lake Albert, claiming the latter was illegally exploring the former's oil.
Kiyonga said the issue of Interahamwe would attract more attention during the Tripartite Plus meeting next month in Kampala. The DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are members of the Tripartite.
"Negative forces is the key thing on the agenda in September," Kiyonga said soon after meeting MPs on the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee at Parliament.
But he said their strength "is of a nuisance level" that would not threaten to overrun any establishment in the region.
Most of the negative forces including the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (or Interahamwe/ex-FAR) and NALU have been blacklisted by the Fusion Cell in Congo that brings together members of the Tripartite Plus Commission and the United States.
Kiyonga said that the matter will further come up during formal talks between ministers from Uganda and Congo.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Congolese counterpart, Kabila, have also been talking but on phone.
In the recent past, The New Times reported that suspected Interahamwe elements have engaged in criminal activities in Uganda. Interahamwe and Ex-FAR forces masterminded Rwanda's 1994 Genocide that claimed about a million people.
Most of the DR Congo-Uganda boundary, estimated to be 475 miles, is so porous, a factor that has encouraged the Rwandan dissidents to freely move in and out of Congo.
Meanwhile, Kiyonga said the Ugandan government and Kinshasa were yet to establish a technical commission that will check facts of the boundary according to the 1915 colonial agreement.
The Uganda-DRC border at Lake Albert has recently caused controversy after Kampala embarked on oil exploration to save its economy that has been threatened by huge gaps in the energy sector.
Kiyonga said they had contacted Kinshasa about the possibility of sharing the oil prospects.
He said the two companies drilling the oil at the edges of Lake Albert on the Ugandan side have applied to DRC to spread the project to its side.
"We are Pan-Africanists. Although we respect the boundaries by the colonialists that doesn't stop us from working together with Congo," KIyonga said.