To the surprise of United Nations officials, and with very little elaboration, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused the U.N. of “preserving terrorism in the Democratic Republic of Congo” on Wednesday.
Museveni made this remark to U.N. officials investigating the December 7 ambush that killed 15 peacekeepers in the Congo and wounded 43 others. The attack is believed to have been carried out by a Ugandan Islamist militia called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and is viewed as one of the worst assaults ever perpetrated on U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. task force was also charged with investigating other attacks in the region.
The Congolese military launched a joint offensive with Ugandan troops against the ADF last weekend, while Uganda conducted airstrikes and artillery attacks against ADF positions shortly after the peacekeeper ambush.
“This is for us the final offensive. We will fight them until the end, until we have secured our territory,” a Congolese commander vowed at a news conference.
Uganda’s NTV quotes Museveni at greater length:
The UN operation in D.R. Congo and to some extent in Somalia was conservation of terrorism. The terrorists are weak. They have had freedom of movement and space but made no progress in their ventures. If they were strong they would have made a big impact.
“It must be the people of the affected country to fight and defeat terrorism within their territory, friendly forces, like the UPDF, should come in not to replace the people but to strengthen them,” he stressed. The UPDF is the Uganda People’s Defense Force, i.e. the Ugandan military.
Dozens of militant groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are reportedly joining forces against DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has refused to step down or allow new elections since his term of office expired in 2016.
Museveni himself has been in power for three decades. When he was recently challenged on the grounds that he is older than the legal age limit of 75 for Ugandan presidential candidates, he responded that he doesn’t know exactly when he was born or how old he is. He was famously told to “go away” by rock impresario and Africa philanthropist Bob Geldof in 2005, but he was able to amend the Ugandan constitution to run for more presidential terms and is currently seeking what critics describe as a “president for life” amendment to remove the cap on age for the Ugandan chief executive.
The inter-governmental International Organization for Migration estimates that 7.7 million people in Congo are suffering from acute food shortages and 4.3 million have been displaced by the fighting, creating one of the worst refugee crises in the world. The chief of mission for Congo declined to comment on Museveni’s accusation of the United Nations “preserving terrorism.”