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Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa) - March 28, 2003

The Interim Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Mr. Amara Essy, expressed grave concerns over the tension between Uganda and Rwanda as a result of the current situation prevailing in the North-Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in general, and in the localities of Bunia, Beni, Butembo, Lubero and Kanyabayonga in particular, the AU Commission said in a press release.

The Interim Chairperson recalled the commitments made by the various parties through the agreements they had signed and urged them to strictly comply with these agreements. He also urged them to refrain from any action that might exacerbate the situation in the region and jeopardize the on-going peace and reconciliation process, the release said.

The Interim Chairperson of the Commission recalled the discussions and decisions of the 7th Ordinary Session of the Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution at Heads of State and Government level held in Addis Ababa on 3rd February, calling among other things on the parties to make use of the existing mechanisms to address differences and requesting the Current Chairperson of the African Union to take all appropriate steps to sustain the momentum in the peace process in the DRC.

At a time when Uganda and Rwanda have announced their withdrawal from the DRC, the new tension was inopportune and very alarming, it said.

The Interim Chairperson of the Commission called on the parties to implement the agreements they had signed, thereby hastening the return of peace, security and stability in the region.

24 March 2003

The AU republic of Rwanda has placed its army on military alert in expectation of an invasion by Uganda. The AUF General Secretary, Dan Kashagama, has confirmed reports of detailed military preparations for war in the republics of Rwanda and Uganda.

The republic of Uganda has deployed tanks, troops and large guns in positions along the Rwanda-Uganda border. Tensions between the two states are running high, and statements by the government and military spokespeople indicate that a war is imminent.     

"A new and dangerous situation is developing in the DRC where the government of Uganda is deploying troops together with FAC, EX-FAR and Interahamwe into areas of Beni, Butembo and Lubero in North Kivu. This is threatening RCD positions and poses a direct security threat," a Rwandan Government statement said on 15 March.

On 19 March 2003, UPDF Brig. Kaihura said Ugandan troops had captured three airfields in the Ituri region. He said that after capturing Bule, 85km North West of Bunia, the UPDF will turn to other Rwanda Patriotic Army [RPA] positions in the Aboro hills in Kpandroma.

The government of Rwanda has given Uganda an ultimatum to withdraw its troops from the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There have been skirmishes in the Ituri region in recent days involving Ugandan and Rwandan troops.    

In recent years the two states' armies have fought battles in and around Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An all-out war between Uganda and Rwanda has the potential to degenerate into genocide of an unprecedented scale, worse than that of 1994. The rural areas in the Albertine Rift and around Lake Victoria are very densely populated. A war would displace in excess of 10 million people quite quickly and the humanitarian disaster would be unimaginable.

There are no compeling conflicts between Ugandans and Rwandans. The war is driven by power differentials between the two leaders (Yoweri Musevene and Paul Kagame). Museveni's regional policy appears to be part of a systematic attempt to direct the course of international affairs through war and military aggression. Over the years numerous efforts have been made to obtain a coherent statement of policy from Museveni, regarding his intentions. No one knows what he wants, or why he has to be so aggressive.

Uganda is second only to Libya as the largest "exporter of revolution" in Africa, by supplying arms and training to combatants in every conflict across the African Union, and some key conflicts around the world. Uganda is the largest distributer of small arms in Africa. Uganda has played a critical role in the Turkish/Kurdish conflict (Yoweri Museveni facilitated the capture of Kurdish leader Apu Ocalan), and in the Bosnian conflict (Uganda supplied weapons during the international arms embargo).

Military commanders in both states are aware of the unprecedented consequences if a war were to break out. Tensions may lead to uncontrolled incidents, and ultimately to a war no one wants. Both states' leaders need to de-escalate the war rhetoric and Amara Essy, Chair of the AU Commission, needs to intervene to prevent a holocaust.