JULY 1, 2010: Thaw in Congo Relations Good

Thaw in Congo Relations Good
SOURCE: The New Vision
President Yoweri Museveni was on Wednesday in the Democratic Republic of Congo to celebrate the 50th independence anniversary celebrations.

It was the first time in 13 years Museveni had visited our western neighbour. The last time being during the swearing in of then president Laurent Kabila in 1997.

Since then the two nations have severed diplomatic relations, Uganda has made incursions into the Congo to rout the Allied Democratic Forces rebels and got embroiled in "Africa's World War" along with eight other nations before pulling out in 2003.

However, the LRA's fleeing to north-eastern Congo after being routed out of southern Sudan and our shared oil resources in the Lake Albert area means we shall always have more than a passing interest in our large central African neighbour.

Obviously our destinies are linked beyond just geographical proximity. We are two poverty stricken countries albeit well endowed with natural resources, strategically located in the middle of Africa.

It can be argued that this central location puts us in a prime location to drive the development agenda of the continent by linking north to south and east to west. But decades of misplaced development paradigms and turmoil in this region have meant the continent has suffered.

Kampala and Kinshasa need to take seriously this huge responsibility bestowed upon them by destiny, shrug off foreign interference and focus on the long term development goals of the two nations, which are separated after all only by an arbitrary line in the sand.

The east African common market has been inaugurated and the logical next step is to rope in the Congo into the fold.

Maybe it is not by mistake that this region has been wracked by political upheaval - the potential of a peaceful central African belt maybe too scary for other interested parties to conceive. Therefore, the current rapprochement between the two key nations is very welcome.