By RISDEL KASASIRA & ISAAC IMAKA
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
UPDF soldiers stationed at Ballidoogole Airbase, a town formerly held by the al-Shabaab fighters, about 90 kms from Mogadishu. Uganda says it will recall its troops if the UN does not withdraw claims linking it to the M23 rebels in DRC. PHOTO BY AFP
Kampala - Government yesterday said its threat to withdraw troops from Somalia is not political posturing intended to hold troubled Somalia at ransom and stampede the UN into shelving a report implicating the Ugandan military in supporting Congolese rebels.
The state minister for regional cooperation, Mr Asuman Kiyingi, told the Daily Monitor that it was a “matter of time” for government to recall Ugandan peacekeepers from Somalia if the UN continues and adopts the report. “If they think it’s a bluff, let them wait and see. The NRM government does not work like that. When we say something, we do it,” Mr Kiyingi said.
The M23 rebels have been fighting the DR Congo government since April after they mutinied, claiming that government had neglected them after they were incorporated into the Congolese national forces in 2009.
The leaked UN report alleges that President Museveni’s brother, Gen. Salim Saleh; the IGP, Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura; the 2 Division commander, Brig. Patrick Kankiriho and the police director of counter terrorism unit, Mr John Ndungutse, are closely in touch with the M23 rebels.
The possible courses of action against Uganda if the UN adopts the report could be sanctions or slamming of travel embargoes against the named officials. But Mr Kiyingi described the lingering feeling that the Kampala regime was using the threat to pull out as a ploy to intimidate the UN, and that it would not withdraw from Somalia, as “ignorance” of what Uganda has done in the past.
“We said we were going to Somalia and people said we couldn’t go and manage. We are now telling them that we will withdraw because we cannot allow these lies intended to tarnish our image,” the minister said.
The chairperson of the UN Security Council-Counter terrorism committee, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, on Saturday said the report does not necessarily represent the position of the UN, following Uganda’s petition to the UN.
Somali insurgents, who have been chased away from their key bases and the capital Mogadishu, may regroup and overthrow the transitional federal government which has been largely kept in place by the UPDF contingent of Amisom if Uganda withdrew.
On Saturday, the United States of America under Secretary for political affairs, Ms Wendy Sherman, told journalists at Entebbe International Airport that the leaking of the report was inappropriate.
In response to the allegations, Gen. Saleh said he could not comment on the report, saying he had not seen and read it. Brig. Kankiriho said his troops “have never” crossed into DR Congo to support the rebels. “These are concocted stories by those so called experts. I’m surprised that people can sit down and concoct stories. Why would we be interested in entering Congo without its permission? I have never seen or met those people they are talking about,” he said. Gen. Kayihura and Mr Ndungutse were out of the country, the police spokesperson, Ms Judith Nabakooba said.
Uganda was ordered by the International Court of Justice to pay the DR Congo $10 billion as reparations following another UN Security Council report which accused several UPDF officers of plundering Congo’s natural resources.
Gen. Saleh was again specifically implicated in that report which revealed how military personnel from Uganda and Rwanda had built an elaborate network through which minerals and other natural resources were being illegally spirited out of the DR Congo.