KAMPALA, Uganda -- Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s long-serving president, has emerged as the central mediator of the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, orchestrating the withdrawal of rebel troops from the key Congolese city of Goma and hosting peace talks between the rebel leaders and the Congolese government. By coordinating all stages of the process, Museveni has reaffirmed his position as East Africa’s key power broker -- a status that until recently appeared to be slipping.
In October, Reuters published details of a leaked U.N. Security Council Group of Experts report alleging Ugandan and Rwandan support for M23, the rebel group that went on to seize swaths of eastern Congo, including Goma. While the report emphasized Rwanda’s role in coordinating M23’s creation and movements, Uganda was also singled out for allowing the “rebel group’s political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations.” Another leaked report from U.N. sanctions experts obtained by AFP alleges further Ugandan and Rwandan aid to M23 during its latest campaign. The new investigation charges Uganda with providing logistical support to the rebels during their offensive, while Rwandan troops are said to have bolstered M23’s efforts.
The repercussions of the reports have so far been decidedly uneven. Before the latest leak, the United Kingdom had already announced it was suspending more than $33 million in budget support to the Rwandan government over its alleged connections to M23. The United States had already cut $200,000 in military aid to the country in July. Uganda, while facing lesser charges than Rwanda, has so far managed not only to remain relatively unscathed by the reports, but to keep control of the peace process. The difference in treatment points to a lack of other viable fixers among East Africa’s leaders as well as to Museveni’s political skill and regional clout after nearly 27 years in power.