Kampala, Uganda | AFP |
Uganda is set to pull its troops out of the restive Central African Republic, deeming the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to be “no longer a threat”, an army spokesman said.
“Uganda has met its goal in the fighting against LRA,” army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told AFP.
“The LRA has been degraded, they no longer have means to make war,” he said, adding however that another reason behind Kampala’s thinking was that “international support has not been enough”.
The chronically unstable Central African Republic was plunged into chaos in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted president Francois Bozize, triggering a spiral of revenge attacks between the rebels and mainly Christian vigilante groups that left thousands dead and displaced many more.
The bloodletting in one of the world’s poorest nations was so serious it triggered a military intervention by former colonial power France and led to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.
A peaceful presidential vote held in February was hailed as an important step towards reconciliation in the strife-torn nation.
France’s mission is due to end in December, after a progressive draw-down.
Around 2,000 Ugandan soldiers, backed by US troops, are currently deployed in eastern CAR as part of an African Union mission to tackle the LRA rebels.
There are another 10,000 UN troops in the country.
The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in the mid-1980s when it took up arms in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Over the years it has moved freely across porous regional borders, shifting from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before heading into northeastern DR Congo in 2005, finally crossing into the southeastern Central African Republic in 2008.
Combining religious mysticism with guerrilla tactics and bloodthirsty ferocity, its leader Joseph Kony has turned scores of young girls into his personal sex slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible’s Ten Commandments.
The group has killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped more than 60,000 children, forcing many of them to become child soldiers, according to the UN.
The LRA has been weakened by the capture or defection of a succession of its leading figures, most recently in February when one of its commanders, Okot Odek, was captured and handed over to US forces by a faction of the Seleka rebels in CAR.