The Ugandan army once again crossed the western border of the country and entered the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Previous invasions have caused great controversy. The army has fought soldiers from Rwanda in the past, committed atrocities and plundered the country’s natural resources.
But this time it was approved by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Why is the Ugandan army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
A few days after the suicide attack in the capital Kampala last month, President Yoweri Museveni called on those responsible to surrender: “My advice to all of them… If they don’t come out, they Will die.”
The government is clearly determined to hunt down militants anywhere.
In the last and most daring of a series of attacks on November 16, three bombers detonated themselves and killed at least four people in the process.
The government accused a radical Islamic rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which was founded in Uganda but was then forced to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo. It said that it is now part of the Islamic State Group.
On Tuesday, the Ugandan army confirmed that it carried out air strikes on ADF targets across the border. Then on Wednesday we saw hundreds of Ugandan troops entering the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congolese government stated that it has invited the armed forces of its neighboring countries into the country because the ADF is one of the many armed groups raging in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The ADF, which withdrew from Uganda in the early 2000s, has been attacking and looting Congolese villages, killing and forcibly recruiting children for at least the past decade.
How serious is the fighting?
A resident in the city of Beni near the border told the BBC that he could hear the explosion.
“The fighting was fierce. Ugandan soldiers entered on foot and by car. We saw drones flying.”
Video clips circulated on social media, showing villagers near Beni watching the marching columns of Ugandan soldiers.
However, officials from the Ugandan and Congolese governments did not disclose too many details, only confirming the presence of the Ugandan army.
The Ugandan army released a series of photos showing a column of soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo accompanied by armored vehicles and tanks.
It said thousands of ADF fighter jets were killed in the airstrike, but it did not provide any evidence and could not verify it.
It said in a statement that the operation will be reviewed every two months.
General Leon Kasonga, spokesman for the Congolese army, said the fighting took place in remote areas, including forests and the Virunga National Park that stretches along the border between the two countries.
He added that the movement of troops, the duration of the operation and the number of casualties are confidential.
How did Uganda react?
Opposition politicians and some commentators strongly opposed the army’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This is partly because the deployment was carried out without consulting the parliament or obtaining parliamentary approval, which is required by the constitution.
But Uganda has neglected this before. There were no consultations when the army entered the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s. In 2013, Ugandan troops crossed South Sudan to support President Salva Kiir without parliamentary approval.
What about in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Although many Congolese are eager to see the end of the ADF attack, some have no fond memories of previous Ugandan invasions.
The response of Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Congo’s Nobel Peace Prize, summarized some concerns.
“No to arsonists/firemen, the same mistake will have the same tragic consequences. The Congolese stand up and the country is in danger!” He tweeted earlier this week.
The militant group Lucha also expressed concern, saying this is not a way to bring peace to troubled areas.
In a statement to the Congolese army, it said in a statement, “Trust must be won…Trust must be won. The people need a government and an army, and they can truly trust them.”
The spokesperson of the United Nations Forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo MONUSCO stated that inviting Ugandans is a legitimate choice, and the United Nations encourages “regional countries to work together to resolve cross-border threats.”
MONUSCO had previously carried out joint operations with the Congolese army to try to prevent the Allied Democratic Forces from attacking, but they are still continuing.
What happened last time?
The Ugandan army gained notoriety for invading the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 1999 and 2000, the Ugandan and Rwandan armed forces respectively supported different factions of the RCD rebel organization and clashed in the Congolese city of Kisangani.
RCD is fighting to overthrow the then President Laurent Kabila.
In what became known as the Six-Day War, it is said that more than 1,000 people were killed in June 2000 when Ugandan and Rwandan armies fought to control the city.
During this phase of the battle, the Ugandan army was accused of violating the human rights of the people.
This includes their sexual exploitation of local women.
The Ugandan army is also accused of plundering the rich natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A United Nations report in 2001 stated that troops from Uganda and other neighboring countries looted minerals, coffee, wood and livestock.
In 2005, the International Court of Justice stated that Uganda must pay compensation for its illegal invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The money has not been handed over.
Why is the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo a safe haven for rebel groups?
This resource-rich region has attracted insurgents for decades. Some reports indicate that there may be at least 120 different militant groups there.
Fighting has become as important as controlling national wealth and political power. Some neighboring countries have been accused of supporting the insurgents in order to benefit from the chaos through plunder.
Although President Felix Tsisekedi declared the so-called “state of martial law” in the two affected provinces-basically martial law, the attacks and killings of residents continued.