NAIROBI, 24 March (IRIN) - The Uganda
People's Defence Forces (UPDF) are not interested in prolonging their stay
in Ituri District, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
since they have achieved their objectives, Kale Kaihura, the military assistant
to President Yoweri Museveni, said on Sunday.
Government-owned Radio Uganda quoted a statement by Kaihura, saying the UN and all signatories to the Lusaka Peace Accord should identify a third party to take over security in Ituri. The UPDF ousted Thomas Lubanga's Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) from Ituri's main town, Bunia, on 6 March.
Kaihura said the UPDF went to Ituri to stop supplies of arms to Ugandan dissidents in the area. He said the UPDF also wanted to ensure that the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) was installed as the only guarantee for peaceful resolution of the conflict in the area.
The radio also quoted the Ugandan minister of state for defence, Ruth Nankabirwa, as saying that the that the UPDF was in the DRC "with the full knowledge of the UN and President Joseph Kabila".
Radio Uganda reported that the minister, who was speaking at a Bunia town council meeting, said Museveni and Kabila had endorsed UPDF's stay in Ituri during a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, late last year.
Nankabirwa told the meeting that the UN endorsed UPDF's presence in Ituri through the UN Secretary-Genera, Kofi Annan. She said the UN, which is supposed to provide security to the region, did not have enough troops to deploy there, adding that the UPDF would remain in Ituri until 24 April when the IPC was expected to have been established.
However, the spokesman for the UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, said on 13 March that MONUC had never asked Uganda to maintain a troop presence in the DRC. On the contrary, he said, the withdrawal of the UPDF from Bunia by March had been provided for under the agreement signed by Kabila and Museveni in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 9 and 10 February.
The radio also quoted Nankabirwa as saying Uganda would "never" accept a vacuum in Ituri, because the district could easily be turned into a hiding place for Ugandan rebels.
A preparatory technical committee for the establishment of the IPC convened its first meeting on Thursday, in Bunia. The committee was set up as the result of an agreement reached on Tuesday by six of seven rebel groups in Ituri to cease hostilities. The UPC did not sign the agreement.
Toure said on Thursday that the technical committee comprised two representatives from MONUC, representatives of ethnic militias in Ituri, and officials of the governments of Angola, the DRC, and Uganda.
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