, KAMPALA, Mar 30 – Uganda\’s military said Monday it was sceptical of a Human Rights Watch report detailing the December massacre of 321 people by Lord\’s Resistance Army rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo.
"I doubt the figures," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Felix Kulayigye said, referring to the report released Sunday which also said 250 people were abducted during the massacre in northeastern DR Congo.
He said that given the weakness of the LRA\’s remaining fighting force, the Ugandan rebel outfit could not have carried out such a large-scale attack and then escaped unharmed.
"In view of the population patterns (in that region) and the number of fighters they have, I doubt they have time to kill 300 people and abduct another 250," Kulayigye said.
"They are remaining only with 200 fighters and those are scattered around northern DRC and Central African Republic."
Kulayigye however acknowledged that the rebel militia, which began its battle against Uganda\’s government more than two decades ago, remained a serious regional problem that the Congolese army had failed to deal with.
"The truth of the matter is, it is for the Congolese to say whether or not they are up to the task, whether they are in a position to deal with this," he said.
Ugandan troops re-entered DR Congo in December 2008 to flush the LRA out of its bases in Garamba National Forest and to capture or kill the group\’s leader, Joseph Kony.
A residual Ugandan force remains in DR Congo but most troops were forced to withdraw in March 2009 with Uganda\’s foreign minister citing Congolese political pressure.
Shortly after his forces left DR Congo, a senior Ugandan officer told AFP he "would look forward to returning if the opportunity availed itself".
Kulayigye said Monday the offer of another large scale Ugandan intervention into Congo still stands.
"For as long as Joseph Kony is at large, this region will never be stabilised and we are willing to do whatever it takes to bring him in," he said.
"If we were asked to return to DRC to help resolve this permanently, the UPDF (Uganda People\’s Defence Force) would accept."