MP Sam Okuonzi

MP Sam Okuonzi

The conflict pitting Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo stems from the international boundary drawn during the colonial era.

Last week both parties failed to reach an understanding during a meeting held at Vurra border post.

Historical context

The Anglo- Belgian Agreement which came into force on February 3, 1915, accorded official recognition to the present boundary of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Anglo- Belgian Agreement took effect 21 years after Uganda was declared a British Protectorate on June 18, 1894. West Nile was the second last then district to be added to Uganda.

The Congo and Uganda border in the current disputed area has the Lugbara tribe in both countries.

In 1913, a Sudanese/Uganda Commission delimited the common boundary on the ground between Bahr al Jabal and the Belgian Congo tripoint, near the present Ariwara in Congo.

The new boundaries were officially promulgated on April 21, 1914 by the British Government.

Conflict

Last week?s meeting was attended by the governor of Oriental Province, Jean Bamanisa Saidi, the Congolese deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Christian Katoto and several other Congolese officials.

The Ugandan side was represented by Arua Resident District Commissioner  Peter Dibele and security officials.

After the failed meeting Dibele told the New Vision that as a delegation they demanded their counterparts from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR-C) to remove the barrier in order to pave way for smooth peace talks.

?Our condition is one and that?s the position of the government. They must take back this barrier because if they don?t take back that means they have claimed our land which we cannot accept, Dibele said.

The Vurra county Member of Parliament, Dr. Sam Okuonzi said the Congolese youth have taken the law into their hands without the Government?s understanding.

?What we have learnt is that the youth are acting on their own; the government is not intriguing the movement of the barrier. Their government is finding a problem to calm them down to sort out this problem,? Dr Okuonzi told the New Vision.

Dr Okuonzi called on the two countries to respect the Ngurdoto agreement that was signed in 2007 between Presidents Joseph Kabila and Museveni who agreed to halt any further construction in the disputed area until a joint technical verification is undertaken.

The border conflict flared two weeks ago after some Congolese extended the barrier at Vurra customs border post about 300 meters into the Ugandan territory and erected some structures.

According to some Congolese officials they were opening the land in the area they regarded as no-man?s land for the construction of a parking yard.

Leaders and residents in Vurra expressed alarm at the audacity of the Congolese youth who extended the barrier into Ugandan territory.

On Friday, Ugandan youth who had organized a retaliation were dispersed by Ugandan police who fired tear gas at them.

Closure of the border has brought business there to a standstill with several drivers of transit trucks stranded.

Lule Semanda, a driver with Transit Uganda, said they had been harshly treated by the Congolese.

?The Congolese have mistreated us, they don?t allow us to check our vehicles and as I speak one of my colleague?s battery and fuel were stolen,? Semanda said.

The leaders from both countries have planned to meet on Tuesday to forge a way forward.

By Proscovia Acan, The New Vision

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