The Ugandan cabinet has endorsed the agreement with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to jointly construct roads in the eastern part of the vast country.
Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi said Cabinet sitting this past Monday, “approved the signing and ratification of the Uganda-DRC intergovernmental agreement for the joint construction of road infrastructure.”
In March 2021, Uganda and DRC signed a road improvement agreement to help boost trade between the two nations at the cost of US$334.5 million.
Financing for the project will be split between the two countries.
Included in the project will be surfacing and maintenance work to improve existing road sections in Uganda and the DRC. These are the 89km road linking Bunagana, Rutshuru and Goma, the 54km road from Beni to Butembo and the 80km road between Kasindi and Beni.
The ratification of the inter-agreement is seen as a step forward for Uganda to assist the Congolese government to stabilise eastern DRC.
However, critics have since asked the government to first concentrate on improving Ugandan roads before venturing into DRC.
Uganda recently deployed heavily-armed forces to set up a base in DRC to prepare for the arrival of road contractors.
However, implementing road construction projects means UPDF will have to first address the rebel threat in the Kivus where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants are active.
ADF, which swore allegiance to Islamic state, is accused of wreaking havoc in North Kivu in which thousands have died and also assassinating high profile government officials in Uganda.
Officials blame ADF for detonating bombs which killed two Ugandans in the central part of the country a few days ago.
President Museveni has in the last few weeks stepped up stakeholder engagements with diplomats, regional leaders and the international community to support the DRC stabilisation efforts.
On October 26, Museveni met with Bintou Keita, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in DRC and Head of MONUSCO, at State House, Entebbe.
The duo discussed matters pertaining to the security situation in the region one year after a similar meeting in which the envoy had assured the President of the UN’s new approach to address the peace process in the DR Congo following conflicts that had displaced thousands of people in eastern parts of the D.R. Congo.
More than five million people have been uprooted by conflict within the DRC’s
borders, the single-largest internally displaced population in Africa.
Uganda hosts over half a million refugees, fleeing unrest and persecution in the neighbouring countries.
Last year, President Museveni told Keita that political leaders failed to have dialogue with locals and the UN intervention failed to provide protection of the indigenous people being attacked by the terrorists.
“Terrorists have had an upper hand in the Eastern RDC for a long time, which is not fair nor correct,” he said.
Meeting representatives of Nordic countries to Uganda recently, Museveni said some of the ADF and ISIS rebels have linkages and many have been arrested while transiting.
He disclosed that Uganda today is hosting over 400,000 Congolese refugees who are victims of insecurity in the neighbouring country and that over 700,000 people were displaced due to disturbances in Mozambique.
“The Security Council should hold bilateral and multilateral engagements and emphasize that Eastern Congo is a breeding ground for these groups in a weak country. It is a problem of a vacuum created by ideological disorientation,” he said.
Sources tell ChimpReports that the UPDF forces in DRC are on high alert in preparation for an offensive against rebels before the road construction projects start.
Minister Baryomunsi said the road projects will lead to stronger bilateral relations between Uganda and DRC’ increased volume of trade; improved people to people movement and security; and accelerated regional integration and stability.