Congolese and Ugandan Presidents Félix Tshisekedi and Yoweri Museveni met on Wednesday (June 16) at the border between the DRC and Uganda. The two heads of state presided over the launch of construction works for the modernization of the Mpondwe-Kasindi-Beni, Beni-Butembo and Bunangana-Rutshuru-Goma roads. This is a road of great economic importance especially in terms of trade for Kampala and Kinshasa. The project to pave the way for the DRC to East Africa and the Indian Ocean saw a boost in May 2021 with the signing of political and technical agreements between the two countries. The interest in this route is therefore not just economic. It is also a security order since the Kasindi-Beni axis is often used by ADF fighters to ambush vehicles and motorcycles belonging to traders.
Congolese President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni had an hour-long tête-à-tête on Wednesday June 16 in Mpondwe, a Ugandan town (Kasese district). They spoke, among other things, about the security situation.
Besides the road construction project in the DRC, Museveni said he is “happy” that he has “discussed the issue of security in the region” with his Congolese counterpart.
The Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebellion, which has been on Congolese soil since 1995, has been accused of large-scale massacres of thousands of civilians for more than six years.
Cornered in the Beni region, the ADF fighters have dispersed to Ituri, where they have recently increased attacks against civilians in the territory of Irumu.
The economic stakes
Three highways will be built between the DRC and Uganda thanks to the political and technical agreements signed last May between the two states. These are the axes: Kasindi-Beni, Beni-Butembo and Bunagana-Rutshuru-Goma for a total cost estimated at around 300 million USD. The stakes are above all commercial. The DRC should open up more to East Africa from where it imports several manufactured products.
“Imports come from the Indian Ocean to the Kenyan port of Mombasa and, this is the route used for the interior including Beni, Goma, Bunia, Kisangani. This is a very important road for us. What changes is the problem of time, where we could do three, four, five days in less than two days, we can leave from Butembo, Beni and reach the port of Mombasa, there are no municipalities. measures between a built-up land road which is subject to the vagaries of the climate compared to an asphalt road, ”said the DRC ambassador to Uganda, Jean Pierre Massala, who is present in Mpondwe.
The rehabilitation of these roads will also help the DRC to increase the rate of its exports to Uganda and East Africa. Currently, Uganda exports a lot to the DRC. In 2020, for example, Ugandan exports to the DRC of manufactured goods are estimated at USD 900 million.
“Uganda practically exports building materials because they have a lot of factories,” the source said, the Congolese diplomat stationed in Kampala.
Congolese exports remain weak and informal, in particular due to insecurity in border areas, mainly in Beni. “We export agricultural products, but security has to be ensured. In areas like Beni, Kamango we have cocoa, coffee, tea, wood, ”said Ambassador Jean Pierre Massala.
The DRC has established itself as a consumer of Ugandan products. The Kasindi-Beni, Beni-Butembo and Bunagana-Rutshuru-Goma road construction project is expected to pave the way for the DRC to East Africa and the Indian Ocean. The project should also prepare the DRC to join the Community of East African Countries.
The works will be carried out by an Indian company based in Uganda. The total cost of the work is approximately USD 300 million. The Indian company will finance the works up to 60% while Uganda and the DRC will each contribute 20%.