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Is Rwanda Planning Surprise Military Strikes in Uganda?

Uganda’s armed forces have intensified preparations to defend the country especially western Uganda which is expected to be invaded by Rwanda Defence force (RDF) and its associated militia groups.

Senior Presidential Advisor in Charge of Special Operations, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba blew the lid off the military threat faced by Uganda when he said enemies planning to destabilize the country should be prepared to be “crushed to dust.”

He said “nobody can defeat Uganda” which he described as “a country of God.”

The former Special Forces Commander also cautioned that Uganda’s enemies faced a “bad day” if they attempted to disrupt the country’s stability.

Since then, information has emerged, showing Rwanda’s continued sprawling military deployments not only in South Kivu but also North Kivu in Eastern Congo.

The areas occupied by Rwandan forces, some of whom are said to be using military uniform of the Congolese army (FARDC), are near the Ugandan border.

This is the second time in less than a year that the Rwandan and Ugandan forces are inching closer to a fully-fledged armed conflict.

Around May 2018, Rwandan forces deployed tens of thousands of troops along the Ugandan border in anticipation of a full scale war.

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A military clash was averted at the 11th hour by diplomats and key individuals in the international community.

Rwanda would later close its border with Uganda before slapping a trade embargo on Ugandan goods.

Kigali further ordered its security forces to enforce a travel ban on its nationals intending to visit Uganda, saying they risked harassment at the hands of Ugandan security officers.

Uganda said it was countering Rwanda’s spy cells built to assassinate key Ugandan officials and also undermine national security.

The closure of the common border sparked widespread smuggling of consumer goods.

To contain the crisis, the Rwandan forces at several times opened fire at suspected smugglers. A Rwandan national was pursued by RDF and shot dead in Uganda.

Realising that the situation was rapidly worsening, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his Angolan counterpart, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço called for talks in Luanda.

The first meeting was graced by president Kagame of Rwanda, Lourenço and Tshisekedi.

It was later agreed to invite President Museveni for talks in Luanda, a request he honoured.

Kagame and Museveni later agreed to avoid situations that would destabilize each other’s countries.

However, Rwandan media attacks against Uganda continued, during and immediately after the Luanda talks.

During the press briefing in Angola’s capital, Luanda, Museveni clarified that “I have never closed any border. That question should be answered by President Paul Kagame.”

A visibly angry Kagame shot back: “When you have an open border, you have goods and people. When you create a problem for people to move across the border from one side to another, then you have closed the border to people and goods.”

Museveni and Kagame shake hands after signing a peace deal in Angola on Wednesday

He added: “The MoU addresses all these matters very clearly and I don’t think we should be picking and choosing what we implement and what we don’t. If there are difficulties going on by trade not going on across the border and there are also problems when people can’t cross the border, when you have people who get arrested when they cross the border, that affects the movement of people, of goods and trade.”

Basing on Kagame’s angry reaction, officials who attended the joint press conference concluded that Rwanda’s problems with Uganda were far from over.

Deployment

ChimpReports has now learned that in May 2019, Rwandan Special Forces and regular troops started crossing into South Kivu, DRC.

Their mission was to hunt down Rwanda National Congress (RNC) rebels whom they killed in multiple ambushes.

Officials told ChimpReports on condition of anonymity so as to speak freely that as of October 2019, Rwanda maintained about a Division of about 10,000 troops in eastern DRC.

“Rwandan forces are now expanding their operations in Beni and Bunia,” said a leader of a humanitarian agency operating in Eastern DRC.

“Even Rwandan Generals recently came here and visited their troops perhaps for morale boosting and assessing their preparedness.”

The Rwandan forces’ positions overlook Uganda’s western towns of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Fort Portal.

Additionally, Rwanda has also maintained heavy military deployments near the South Western border in areas overlooking Kabale and Kisoro.

The reason being advanced for Rwanda’s deployment in DRC is that it lacks what is known as “strategic depth” to sustain a conventional war with UPDF.

For example, Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali is just an hour’s drive from Katuna border.

This means the city is in the shooting range of UPDF’s artillery.

It appears Rwanda chose DRC which gives RDF a wider operational area in case of an armed conflict with Uganda.

Secondly, there are several militia groups in DRC such as Mai Mai, Red Tabara and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) which could be mobilised to reinforce RDF’s numbers to take on Uganda.

Thirdly, a war between RDF and UPDF in DRC minimises collateral damage on Rwanda’s infrastructure as the battles would have to be fought in Eastern DRC.

Why target western Uganda?

According to a high ranking officer, Rwanda intends to strike western Uganda to “hit Museveni where it hurts most.”

“Apart from assassinations here in Kampala, they want to surprise us in the West,” said an official informed about the escalating tension between Uganda and Rwanda.

“But they need to know we are ready for them,” the official added, emphasising, “We are not sleeping.”

Western Uganda is the not only a tourism hub but also the birthplace of President Museveni and NRM’s major stronghold.

Strikes in western Uganda would eat into Museveni’s wide popularity.

Additionally, western Uganda boasts vast oil deposits worth billions of dollars.

About 1.4 billion of Uganda’s 6.5 billion barrels of oil are located mostly on its western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The oil fields near the DRC border

Uganda is currently building roads and an international airport to facilitate the exploitation of the oil resource in the region. A war in the area would ravage this critical infrastructure.

In June 2019, Kagame told a conference in Kigali: “People fear fighting between us. I don’t see it coming because I think Uganda understands the cost of it.”

Oil

There is speculation that some individuals in the international community want to topple President Museveni from power and install a friendly leader who would allow them have unfettered access to oil in western Uganda.

The oil companies are yet to make their Final Investment Decision (FID) due to disagreements with Uganda over taxes.

According to estimates, Uganda will be able to pump about 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day during the peak period.

Uganda expects to earn about $10m per day from profit oil and other royalties during this peak production.

For context, Uganda owes China $475m for the construction of Entebbe Expressway. Using oil money, Uganda needs to save proceeds of daily oil sales for just 48 days to pay off the entire Expressway loan.

This is before rolling out the refinery which has potential to significantly reduce oil imports as it will produce kerosine, gasoline, diesel, heavy fuel oils, and other products for the domestic and regional markets.

As at the end of June 2018, the total debt amounted to US$11 billion, according to Bank of Uganda (BoU) Governor Tumusiime Mutebile.

Uganda’s oil is expected to last 25 years before depletion, implying Uganda could earn more than $50bn – enough money to pay off these debts.

But this is possible only if the country’s security remains stable. A conflict would scare away potential investors.

Karemire speaks out

However, Defence spokesperson Brigadier Richard Karemire sought to reassure that “UPDF maintains a very defensive posture” to “ensure mother Uganda remained secure and peaceful.”

Asked about reports that Uganda’s neighbours were building alliances with militia groups, Brigadier Karemire responded: “If they are doing that, they know best why. Our duty is protect our territory.”

He further said Uganda continues to work closely with “established mechanisms to share intelligence” to counter the activities of wrong groups in DRC.

Karemire also referred to a recent meeting between Uganda’s Deputy Chief of Defence Forces (D/CDF) Lt Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi and DRC-based MONUSCO Force Commander Lt Gen Elias Rodrigues Martins Filho during which they agreed to deepen cooperation with the view of defeating Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The meeting was held last week at the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs headquarters, Mbuya.

The duo discussed the current security situation in the region and reiterated the commitment of both sides to continue implementing available security mechanisms to neutralize negative forces in Eastern DRC.

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