Source: Wall Street Journal
UPDF spokesman, Col. Felix Kulayigye
The Ugandan army has been placed on high alert following the regrouping of rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces along the country’s oil-rich western border with restive eastern Congo, Ugandan officials said Monday.
ADF has set up three camps in Congo’s North Kivu province, some 30 kilometers from the Ugandan border, where oil exploration companies recently discovered around 2.5 billion barrels of oil, according to Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s defense and army spokesman.
« Our troops are on high alert because ADF poses a security threat, mainly to the civilian population, » he said.
The Congolese army has no presence in the areas where the rebels are currently conducting military drills, in preparation for an incursion into Uganda’s Kasese district, the colonel said. Kasese is located near the Southern tip of the oil-rich Lake Albert.
Congolese officials could not be reached for an immediate comment.
The ADF last infiltrated Uganda’s oil region in 2007 but were swiftly repulsed by the Ugandan army. Following that incident, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni put the security of the area under the elite Special Forces Group commanded by his son, Col. Muhoozi Keinerugaba.
Although rebel camps are located some 30 kilometers from the oil-rich Semuliki valley, Congo has restricted Ugandan troops from pursuing the dissidents inside its territories. In November last year, Congo also ordered Ugandan troops out of its Northwestern regions, where they had been conducting operations against Lords’ Resistance Army rebels.
Uganda and Congo have unsuccessfully attempted to mend relations in recent years. In 2007 the two countries almost went to war after Congolese troops attacked an oil exploration vessel belonging to Heritage Oil PLC on Lake Albert, killing a Heritage contract worker. Congo accused the company of illegal oil exploration on its side of the lake, a charge denied by both Heritage and the Ugandan government.
Earlier this month, Uganda’s chief of defense forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, traveled to the Congolese capital Kinsansha for talks with his Congolese counterpart over the rebel threat.
The Ugandan army has been trying to increase security in its oil region, ahead of the development of oil fields. Currently a new army base is being constructed on the Ugandan side of the lake.
While significant oil exploration has been under way on the Ugandan side since 2006, similar activities on the Congolese side are hampered by insecurity posed by dozens of armed militia groups in the region.
By Nicholas Bariyo Link