- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2001

KAMPALA, Uganda — President Yoweri Museveni withdrew yesterday from a peace accord designed to end Congos 2 1/2-year civil war, infuriated by a U.N. report accusing his nation and other parties in the conflict of plundering Congos vast natural resources.
The United Nations is helping broker an end to the war, which now involves five foreign armies and has left the Congolese government holding just 40 percent of a country the size of Western Europe. Aid workers say the conflict is indirectly responsible for the deaths of at least 1 million Congolese and the displacement of 2 million more.
Ugandas withdrawal could give the Congolese rebels it backs less incentive to stick to the peace agreement, reached in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999 by all warring sides. It could also enable Uganda to arm those rebels, unrestrained by the accords prohibition on further military aid.
But Mr. Museveni also reiterated his commitment to pulling his troops from Congo, saying now that they have defeated Ugandan rebels operating there, it was time for his forces to leave.
Some participants appeared unconcerned that Uganda was pulling out of the peace agreement, and were pleased that Mr. Museveni would still withdraw his troops.
"If the government decides to withdraw its forces from the Congo, its always favorable. This is in line with the Lusaka agreement," said Kamel Morjane, the U.N. special representative for Congo. "If all parties show their good will, there is no risk."
Uganda and Rwanda both sent troops into Congo in 1998 to back Congolese rebels seeking to overthrow then-President Laurent Kabila. Both countries were also acting to secure their borders from attacks by Rwandan and Ugandan rebels operating from within Congo. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent in troops to support Congos government.
Despite the 1999 accord, sporadic fighting has continued.
Kikaya Bin Karubi, the Congolese information minister, welcomed the promised troop withdrawal and said his country would stick with the Lusaka agreement .
The leader of the Ugandan-backed rebels, Congolese Liberation Front Chairman Jean-Pierre Bemba, said the decision would have little impact on the war since, he insisted, Ugandan troops had not been involved in the fighting. Uganda is estimated to have had at least 10,000 troops in Congo at the peak of the war.
Mr. Museveni said his decision was motivated by an April 16 U.N. report that implicated his country, members of his government and his family in the suspected plundering of resources from Congo. The report called for sanctions against Uganda and Rwanda and the prosecution of their leaders and rebel leaders for economic crimes.
"The U.N. report does not only distort the source of the conflict in the Great Lakes region and malign us, but they also seek to destroy the Lusaka peace agreement. The report is in the main, shoddy, malicious and a red herring," Mr. Museveni said in a statement in the government-owned New Vision newspaper.
"Genocide, terrorism and disenfranchising the Congolese people are causes of this problem, not minerals," he said.
Congo has vast deposits of key minerals that include coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold, and large forests for timber.
Mr. Museveni said his army will remain on the mountain slopes overlooking the Congo border to flush out any rebel incursions. He left open the possibility his troops may return to Congo.


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