Uganda dismisses allegations of supporting M23 rebels

Uganda dismisses allegations of supporting M23 rebels

Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces says country respects DRC’s borders and territorial integrity

By Hamza Kyeyune

KAAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - Ugandan officials have rebuffed a UN Group of Experts report accusing Uganda of harboring M23 rebels, describing the claims as an attempt to strain relations with neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces said the country respects the DRC’s borders and territorial integrity and only conducts cross-border operations with the consent of Kinshasha government.

Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye, the Director of Defense Public Information in Uganda, told Anadolu that he is not aware of M23 rebels’ presence in the country.

The UN Group of Experts report said that Uganda is providing sanctuary to the rebels and passage to the Rwanda Defense Forces troops, who travel to Eastern DRC to fight alongside M23 fighters against the DRC government.

The UN sanctions prevent M23 rebel leaders from travelling abroad, but the UN experts indicated that Uganda allows them to travel through its territory and Entebbe International Airport.

M23 rebel group said their teams deployed outside their operation zones in Kampala and other cities in East Africa and Southern Africa were only intended for peace talks.

“Regarding the matter, we would like to remind the United Nations Group of Experts that our teams (either delegation or representation) have always been deployed outside the area under our control for reasons of peace and not war,” a statement issued by Lawrence Kanyuka, the spokesperson of the M23 rebel commander, reads in part.

“This is particularly the case with certain capitals of some countries in the East and Southern Africa regions, which have long served as venues for talks between our organization and the Kinshasa regime to bring peace to our country,” the M23 noted.

- Complex web of accusations

Uganda is embroiled in a web of accusations and denials concerning its role in the volatile conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) officially supporting DRC government forces against Allied Democratic Forces rebels, Kampala faces accusations of aiding M23 rebels.

The Ugandan government vehemently denies direct involvement in DRC's internal conflicts, saying its military presence is part of regional peacekeeping efforts. Uganda, like Rwanda, has previously intervened militarily in eastern DRC, citing defense against rebel groups in 1996 and 1998.

The accusations of a duplicitous mission by Uganda highlight the complex dynamics of security concerns of neighboring countries and cross-border military networks which are state and non-state sponsored.

Foreign intervention in eastern DRC has long been a focal point for discussions in either exacerbating or mitigating violence.

The dynamics and the precarious balance between seeking peace and navigating the intricate web of alliances and animosities have increased the risk of sucking neighboring countries deeply into the conflict.

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