Uganda begins withdrawing troops from Congo

March 15th, 2009 - 11:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kampala, March 15 (DPA) Uganda began withdrawing its troops from northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a senior Ugandan army official said Sunday.
“The process of bringing them back starts today. They are being flown out because the time for their mission there expired some weeks ago,” Ugandan military air force spokesman Captain Tabaro Kiconco told DPA.

In a recent meeting with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, Congolese President Joseph Kabila refused to renew the deployment of Ugandan troops.

Hundreds of Ugandan soldiers were sent in December to fight Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) guerrillas in Congo’s Garamba national park, where they had fled late 2004 after being flushed out of former bases in Sudan.

Joint Ugandan, Congolese and southern Sudanese forces were engaged in an aerial and ground offensive against the LRA which had fought a civil war for more than two decades that left thousands dead, mutilated, and abducted and close to two million displaced in northern Uganda.

Uganda initiated military action against the LRA when the rebels refused to sign a final peace agreement in early 2008. The rebels insisted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (in the Netherlands) first withdraw arrest warrants issued in 2005 against their top leaders for war crimes.

Human rights and UN bodies have said the joint military offensive was flawed in that in response the LRA, as is its habit, turned on civilians in Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan, killing and abducting them.

UN and other independent sources say that the rebels have so far killed about 1,000 people, abducted hundreds and forced tens of thousands from their homes since the recent military campaign began.

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