Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa has revealed that the government is worried that warlord Joseph Kony could take advantage of conflicts in the region, and promised to pull back its troops in South Sudan once a U.N.-led mission was at full strength, to focus on pursuing Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
Uganda sent forces into South Sudan to back the government shortly after fighting broke out in December between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and to his sacked deputy Riek Machar.
“As soon as the regional force working with the United Nations is in place, Uganda will withdraw and only stay in South Sudan to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is what we were doing prior to this conflict,” Kutesa told Reuters in an interview in Paris.
The United Nations said on Tuesday that Kony and some of his commanders were hiding in Sudanese-controlled areas of a disputed enclave in South Sudan bordering both Sudan and the Central African Republic.
A 5,000-strong African Union Regional Task Force – supported by 100 U.S. Special Forces commandos – has already been hunting Kony and his commanders, who are accused of abducting thousands of children for use as fighters in a rebel army that earned a reputation for chopping off limbs as a form of discipline.
“His forces’ capacity to wage war has been greatly diminished,” Kutesa said. “They are now in small groups, but we think it is important we finish this matter because the kind of conflict in South Sudan will give him a shot in the arm.”
Kutesa attended talks this month with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya to try to help put an end to the increasingly tribal-based killing in South Sudan.
Ahead of visits to China, Russia and the United States, the 65-year old Kutesa, was in Paris to outline his priorities before taking over the presidency of the U.N. General Assembly later this year.