US expects Ugandan peacekeepers to stay in Somalia

Tue Nov 6, 2012 5:08am GMT

By Drazen Jorgic

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States expects Uganda to keep its peacekeeping forces in Somalia, despite a threat to withdraw in protest at a U.N. report accusing Kampala of aiding rebels in eastern Congo, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

The government in Kampala said on Friday it would pull out of peacekeeping missions in Africa unless the United Nations amends a report accusing it of supporting rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wendy Sherman, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, who met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week, said Museveni had raised concerns about the U.N. report. However, she said she still expected him to keep peacekeeping troops on the ground.

"I fully expect because of (Museveni's) commitment to peace and security in the region that Uganda will continue to play the leadership role it has, both diplomatically and in terms of military security," Sherman told reporters in Nairobi.

Diplomats on the 15-nation U.N. Security Council said they had reached similar conclusions after meetings with a Ugandan delegation to discuss the issue. All said that the Ugandans made clear they were unhappy with the report but did not bring mention their threats to withdraw troops from any missions.

"They complained about the report but didn't say anything about ending participation in Somalia or elsewhere," one diplomat in New York said on condition of anonymity.0

Ugandan troops account for more than a third of the 17,600 U.N.-mandated African peacekeepers battling al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels in Somalia, and their withdrawal could hand an advantage to the weakened al Shabaab rebels.

Backed by U.S. special forces, the soldiers are also leading the hunt for fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in Central African Republic, with some stationed in South Sudan.   Continued...

Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) listen while Contingent Commander for Uganda, Brigadier Paul Lokech (not seen), briefs members of 09 Battalion before an advance on the town of Afgoye to the west of the Somali capital Mogadishu, in this handout photo released on May 25, 2012. REUTERS/African Union-United Nations Information Support Team//Stuart Price /Handout
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