Human rights defenders from the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC have asked Ugandan troops to act professionally and avoid committing any human rights violations.
The Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF are currently in DRC pursuing Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels. Last week, the UPDF and Congolese army launched air and artillery strikes against ADF camps in the DRC.
Robert Kotchani, the Country Representative for the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner says that the UPDF should not commit any human rights violations.
He made the call on Thursday at the sideline of the celebration of Human Rights defenders Day at Royal Suites Bugoloobi.
Kotchani says Uganda has previously disciplined its soldiers including sentencing some to death for violating human rights. He says the troops should stick to their objectives of being in DRC.
Ann Nturubika, a human rights defender and Congolese Refugee living in Uganda says that she wouldn’t wish for the UPDF to return to DRC because there are still many women stuck in the country with children fathered by the soldiers.
Nturubika says that both governments should work with the aim of helping the people of DRC who have long lived in conflicted areas and not serve to fulfill selfish desires.
“But one thing we don’t want is for them to do things they did in the past… It wasn’t a good thing at all. Things like impregnating young girls were all not pleasant” said Nturubika.
Uganda participated in the 1996 regional coalition formed to fight Rwandan Hutu rebels and Ugandan rebels operating in DR. Congo and said to be supported by then President of Congo Mobutu Seseseko.
However, Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF was accused of illegal exploitation of resources from the Congo in what came to be known as military entrepreneurialism.
The United Nations (UN) in its report named top military commanders and officers involved in what they called an elite network.
The same accusations emerged against Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi during the 1998-2003 occupation in the eastern part of Congo in what was known as the second Congolese war.
In 2001, a UN report found that while the three countries went to Congo to secure their borders, they stayed there to steal resources.
Another human rights defender from DRC, Mama Beneradete Ntombi wonders why ADF fighters terrorize people in DRC killing women and children.
“I would like to have the troops to fight the ADF but are wary of the human rights abuses they could engage in. In their previous engagements, they killed innocent people and impregnated women and girls leaving behind a pool of children who didn’t know who their fathers were, Ntumba said.