More than 60,000 Congolese flee to Uganda after attack by Ugandan rebels in eastern Congo
Sunday, July 14, 2013
More than 60,000 Congolese have fled to Uganda after a rebel attack
on a town near the border in a continuing influx that is stretching
humanitarian capacities, an aid group said Sunday.
The Uganda Red Cross has already registered 41,000 refugees and
that 20,000 more are yet to go through that process, said spokeswoman
“Currently we are looking at about 65,000 people,” she said.
refugees are entering Uganda though the frontier district of Bundibugyo
and many have found temporary shelter on the campuses of three schools
there, she said.
The refugee influx continues three days after a
Ugandan-led rebel group attacked Kamango town and killed some people on
Thursday, according to Ugandan military officials who are concerned the
rebels are about to launch a major assault on Ugandan territory.
offensive rebel group —the Allied Democratic Forces —had been hiding
out in the jungles of eastern Congo for years since it was ousted from
Ugandan territory. The group was formed in the early 1990s by Ugandan
Muslims who said they had been sidelined by the policies of Uganda’s
long-serving president and who want to rule Uganda according to Shariah
law. The rebels at the time staged deadly terrorist attacks in Ugandan
villages as well as in the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80
students were massacred in a frontier town. A Ugandan military assault
later forced the rebels into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are
able to roam freely because the central government has limited control
Ugandan military officials have been warning about the
rebels’ resurgence for several months, but they now believe the rebels
could be plotting an attack on Ugandan territory. The rebels have
largely been quiet over the years, staging sporadic attacks on towns in
eastern Congo and against Congolese military units. A United Nations
report last year said those rebels “expanded their military capacity and
cooperated” with Somalia’s al-Shabab militants. Ugandan officials do
not know how many rebels are in the bush.
The rebels’ attack came
at a time when another group, the M23 rebel movement, had seized the
attention of regional and international diplomatic efforts to bring
peace to eastern Congo.
Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a
regional security consultancy called Fanaka Kwawote, said the attack by
a long-dormant group highlights eastern Congo’s precarious security
situation and the need for an ambitious “political solution” backed by
Uganda and Rwanda, neighboring countries that in the past have sent
their armies into Congo in pursuit of rebels hiding there.
case of Uganda, increased rebel activity so close to the border could
hamper its young oil industry even before the first drops of oil flow.
Uganda has discovered large quantities of crude on the Albertine belt
along the border, and oil companies are drilling for more crude there.
“The main impact of the attack could be to draw Uganda back into Congo,” Izama said.
Ugandan army spokesman, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, on Friday ruled out the
possibility of Uganda invading Congo in pursuit of rebels, saying the
situation with the Allied Democratic Forces is not yet urgent.