2 November 2012

East Africa: Ugandan Troops to Quit Somalia

Photo: New Vision
President Yoweri Museveni inspects a guard of honour by the AU peace keeping force at their base. (File Photo)

UGANDAN Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, on Thursday, told the nation's parliament that a decision has been taken to pull out of all regional efforts, including peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Central African Republic and DR Congo, over a leaked UN report, which accuses Uganda and Rwanda of supporting Congolese M23 rebels.

Uganda has denied accusations from a UN panel of experts that senior officials have provided assistance to the M23 rebel groups in eastern DRC.

The report said that Ugandan officials gave support "in the form of direct troop reinforcements in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations."

When contacted, Uganda's High Commissioner to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero said the development is a result of targeted maligning of Uganda by some actors in the international community.

"Our position is informed by the unseriousness of some actors in the international community. Uganda together with its regional partners has paid a heavy price in trying to bring peace and stability in the region, but instead of acknowledging these efforts, the country is being maligned by the so called international experts. Uganda will continue consultations with its regional partners to decide on the next stage," Kabonero said.

According to Ugandan press reports, Prime Minister Mbabazi described the allegations linking Uganda to M23 rebels as baseless, unfair and malicious. He said Uganda was acting in good faith and sacrificing a lot to bring peace to the region and deserved better understanding, respect and fairness from the UN and the region.

"We have now decided, after due consultations with our brothers in the AU and the region, to completely withdraw from these regional peace efforts; that is to say DRC, Somalia and others," Uganda's The New Vision quoted Mbabazi, adding that "It is no longer plausible for Uganda to assist and get malignment as the reward."

According to Mbabazi, Uganda got involved in the M23 conflict after being requested by the UN chief, Ban Ki-Moon, the DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

The same report from the UN Group of Experts has also accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels.

Rwanda has strongly refuted and rebutted the allegations, instead submitting proof that the 'lead expert' has for years been an ardent campaigner for the genocidal forces, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, operating in Congo.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been leading mediation efforts in the region in his position as chairman of the regional International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

Mbabazi added that the report was compiled by a UN group of experts who "arrived (in Uganda) on September 17 and left the next day.

They met government officials on September 18, but failed to meet the intelligence chiefs, given the short notice.

They refused to extend their stay and flew to Goma, from where they summoned Ugandan intelligence chiefs to meet them, which Mbabazi said was improper.

Mbabazi said the Government was surprised that issues which came out in the report, were neither discussed in the meeting of September 18 nor cross-checked with Government officials.

Ugandan troops make up a third of the 17,000-strong African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom) that has recently been instrumental in wresting a series of strategic strongholds from al Qaeda-linked Islamist Shebab rebel.

The M23 rebel fighters were incorporated into the DR Congo army in 2009 as part of a peace deal in the troubled, mineral-rich eastern region.

They quit the army this year in a dispute over violation of the agreement by the Kinshasa government.

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