, KAMPALA, Nov 2 – Uganda on Friday threatened to pull its troops out of United Nation peacekeeping missions in response to UN allegations that it is backing a rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We are saying that if these allegations, which are malicious and unfounded, are not withdrawn then we are considering withdrawing not only from Somalia but from all peacekeeping missions we are involved in,” Asuman Kiyingi, Uganda’s state minister for regional cooperation, told AFP.
Ugandan troops make up roughly 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 Shabaab rebel.
Ugandan prime minister Amama Mbabazi told parliament that a decision had been made to withdraw the troops from Amisom, local independent newspaper the Daily Monitor reported Friday, but Kiyingi said that no firm choice had yet been made.
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 confidential 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.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been leading regional mediation efforts in the region in his position as chairman of the regional International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Other than providing the bulk of AU’s peace keeping force in war ravaged Somalia, Uganda also contributes peacekeepers to missions in Darfur, Ivory Coast, Liberia and East Timor.
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 salaries and poor conditions.
Last month, Kampala dismissed threats of UN sanctions following the allegations of its support of the rebel group with the country’s foreign minister terming the threats as ‘mere talk.’
Uganda is chairing regional efforts by leaders of the Great Lakes region to try to end the chronic violence in eastern DRCongo and to deploy a neutral force there.
UN investigators accuse both Rwanda and Uganda, which border eastern DR Congo, of arming and supporting the rebels. Rwanda has repeatedly denied accusations that it backs the fighters.
The M23 rebel force is made up of former fighters in the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), an ethnic Tutsi rebel movement.