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Kampala takes on another military mission which could cool bilateral tensions over gold-looting in Ituri province

Kampala seeks a trade-off with Kinshasa – military help and intel in exchange for a resolution of legal disputes

Ugandan troops have re–entered Congo-Kinshasa, officially at least, for the first time since the UN and African Union-brokered truce in 2002 that led to the formal exit of foreign troops (Ugandan, Rwandan and Zimbabwean) from the territory.

This time Uganda's troops are being invited in at Kinshasa's request in a bid to defeat the Islamist militia groups which have operated with impunity in the Kivu and Ituri regions for several years.

On 15-16 May, a delegation from the Ugandan People's Defence Force arrived in the border province of North Kivu, where a joint operations centre has been set up.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is believed to be responsible for much of the recent violence in the provinces which border Uganda and Rwanda, killing around 850 people last year, according to the United Nations. But observers fear that a purely military mission is unlikely to be successful.

ADF fighters have also infiltrated other militia groups in the region, as well as the Congolese army, but the government in Kinshasa has depicted the ADF as a Ugandan outfit (AC Vol 59 No 23, Militias flex their muscles).

There is another reason for President Yoweri Museveni to back the mission: it may curry favour and deflect attention from the case being heard at the International Court of Justice, where the Congo-K government is seeking some $13 billion in reparations from Uganda for its role in the conflicts in Ituri between 1998 and 2003, demands which Uganda's lawyers have described as 'dangerously disproportionate'.

Over the past decade and a half, troops from Uganda and Rwanda have been in and out of the Kivus ostensibly to tackle the cluster of militia groups which take their roots from the civil wars in Rwanda and Congo-K. Often the troops have exploited the bountiful mineral resources in the region; the point at issue in the ICJ case. Talks between Congo-K's President Félix Tshisekedi and the UPDF have been ongoing for the last two years (AC Vol 60 No 11, A shake-up takes shape).

The European Union is also set to provide a training mission for Congolese troops, after EU diplomats confirmed that President Felix Tshisekedi had made a formal request for support.

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