FROM the New vision
Congo Cancels Border Talks
CONGO has called off any immediate negotiations to try and resolve the fresh conflict over a disputed border area in West Nile.
Officials from either side of the border were scheduled to hold a meeting in the area of contention in Vurra yesterday. But the Congolese withdrew at the eleventh hour after receiving orders from the capital, Kinshasa.
Led by the Aru territorial administrator, Mawa Njorogi, and the Brigade commander, Col. Masudi Hassan, the Congolese arrived with heavily armed military and police escorts, which caused a temporarily halt in business at Vurra customs point as they took positions to guard their bosses.
"We are sorry but this meeting can't go on because our ministers are all busy meeting President Joseph Kabila. Another date will be communicated after 15 days," Njorogi told the Ugandan consultation team.
The row erupted on May 2 when Congolese authorities, using the army and the police, shifted their border post from 5km to within 200m of the Ugandan crossing point.
They erected a metallic and concrete barrier, and also planted a 'welcome' signpost in an area that is otherwise known to be no-man's land.
Since then, armed Congolese police and soldiers have been patrolling the area, while the Ugandan forces have restrained from engaging in any face-to-face arguments for fear that it would lead to an armed clash.
The atmosphere yesterday grew more grim when the Congolese blocked the Ugandan team from visiting River Ofu, which is perceived to be the natural boundary. They had jointly set off for the trip, only to be stopped at the controversial barrier when the Congolese changed their mind.
With no hesitation, the Ugandans retreated to Slumberland hotel in Arua town, where they held a closed-door meeting.
The delegation, comprising officials from the ministries of foreign and internal affairs, the President's office, the Ugandan army and immigration department, had hoped to convince the Congolese to pull out their troops from the disputed area until a mutual agreement was reached.
Arua resident district commissioner Ibrahim Abiriga, who led the Ugandan delegation, accused the Congolese of playing tricks by snubbing the meeting.
"Foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa called his Congolese counterpart, Mbusa Nyamwisi, and agreed that we meet today. We are surprised that the same people are turning away. It is very unfortunate," Abiriga said.
He termed the creation of a new barrier as "provocative" and urged the Congolese to remove it and withdraw their troops until a mutual solution was found.
"These are totally unacceptable actions. It has created fear and anger among the local population. People even feel like protesting," Abiriga said.
He called on the Congolese to wait for the final report of the joint border verification commission, which is expected to clear the air on the true alignment of the frontier.
The commission, that also includes Congolese generals, was in the area recently and called for the status-quo to remain until it released its findings.