Uganda has officially withdrawn all its forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), except for two battalions which would remain to safeguard civilian security in the troubled city of Bunia, northeastern DRC, official Radio Uganda reported.
Ugandan army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza told the radio the battalions would stay in Bunia pending the arrival of the UN peacekeeping mission (known as MONUC). The Ugandan government-owned 'New Vision' newspaper reported that a total of 1,138 troops had returned from the DRC.
Uganda signed a peace deal with the DRC on 15 August, under which it pledged to withdraw most of its troops remaining in DRC.
Bunia, with a population of about 300,000, is less than 50 km from the Ugandan border. Two of the ethnic groups in the Ituri region, the pastoral Hema and the agricultural Lendu, have frequently clashed over leadership in the region where Bunia is the main town.
The UN envoy to the DRC, Amos Namanga Ngongi, has said that ongoing conflicts in Bunia are not simply ethnic in nature, but motivated by underlying political and economic interests.
Bantariza said that when the MONUC troops were ready, the Ugandan army would be redeployed to the Rwenzori Mountains. He assured Ugandans that western Uganda was now secure, and advised people in hitherto troubled districts such as Bundibugyo, Kasese and Fort Portal to rededicate their energies toward massive food production.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the 'New Vision' reported that more than 300 Congolese refugees fleeing conflict from Bunia had arrived in Nebbi district, western Uganda, since mid-August.
"People are keeping the refugees in their houses. But they cannot accommodate them for long otherwise they will start stealing food," local councillor Ronald Nyatorombo was quoted as saying.
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