Thursday, June 11, 2009

Uganda, DRC in new border dispute

KAMPALA, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Tension is brewing along the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border near the northwestern Ugandan district of Nebbi after the Congolese started constructing a Police post in a contested area.

Betty Adima, Nebbi Resident District Commissioner was quoted by the state-owned New Vision daily on Monday as saying that the construction, which started last week, was causing unnecessary anxiety since the area is among those the two countries agreed to verify through a joint permanent commission.

She said the post was being built within 50 meters of Goli, which is considered to be a buffer zone.

She said the builders were guarded by Congolese troops, which is a violation of the Ngurdoto Agreement signed in 2007 by both countries calling for the demilitarization of disputed areas.

She described Congo's action as a "provocation" but stressed that the Ugandan government would not take the same action.

"We have capacity to react strongly, but we won't because we are people who keep the rule of law," she said, but warned that government would not sit back if Ugandans were harassed or hurt.

A meeting of border officials over the weekend ended in a stalemate after the Congolese delegation vowed to continue with the construction claiming they were acting within their territory.

This contested area is one of the many border points between the two countries that a joint border remarking team surveyed. The team is yet to make a final demarcation.

A border dispute between the two countries in 2007 turned bloody after the Congolese troops shot at a barge carrying an oil drilling team, killing a British oil worker. The Ugandan army shot back killing one Congolese soldier and wounding another.

The two armies were fighting over the sovereignty of Rukwanzi Island on Lake Albert which has large oil deposits.

This new border dispute comes on the heels of another dispute between Uganda and Kenya over the Migingo Island on Lake Victoria. The two countries are now carrying out a joint border survey exercise.