Uganda says to pull out troops from Somalia over Congo charges

Sat Nov 3, 2012 1:09am GMT

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda will tell the United Nations it is withdrawing its forces from military operations in Somalia and other regional hotspots after the world body accused it of supporting Congolese rebels, the security minister said on Friday.

Minister Wilson Mukasa said the decision was irreversible and another Cabinet minister would explain Uganda's position at the United Nations in New York. However, it was not immediately clear if an irrevocable decision had been taken.

U.N. diplomats told Reuters the Ugandan delegation, which was led by Ruhakana Rugunda, special envoy and minister of information and communications technology, did not threaten to withdraw troops from international peacekeeping missions during discussions with U.N. officials in New York this week.

A read-out of the Ugandan delegation's meeting on Friday with Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the president of the U.N. Security Council this month, also made no mention of threats to pull out troops. The information was made available to Reuters by India's U.N. mission.

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 al Shabaab.

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

In a leaked report, a U.N. Group of Experts last month accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the so-called M23 rebel group commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord indicted by the International Criminal Court nicknamed "the Terminator".

India's statement said the Ugandan delegation expressed "grave concern" about the report of the Group of Experts, and added that the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee had yet to formally consider the experts' report.   Continued...

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