Uganda said it would start withdrawing troops from South Sudan on Monday, a move that will please other regional and Western powers who feared the soldiers’ presence could exacerbate fighting there.
Ugandan soldiers should be out of the country by the first week of November, if the weather is favorable, General Edward Katumba Wamala, the chief of defense forces, told reporters Monday in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
“The chief of land forces is already in Juba to facilitate their withdrawal,” Wamala said, referring to South Sudan’s capital.
Uganda’s army intervened in support of President Salva Kiir shortly after a rebellion in the oil-producing nation began in December 2013. A troop pull-out is one of the conditions of a peace agreement signed by Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August.
Uganda has between 2,000 and 3,000 troops in South Sudan and lost nine soldiers in combat operations there, Wamala said. South Sudan’s rainy season runs from about May until October and can cause serious flooding and disruption to transportation.
The conflict has left tens of thousands of people dead, forced about 2 million to flee their homes and slashed crude production by at least a third to 160,000 barrels per day.
South Sudanese Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk said he was aware that Ugandan forces are preparing to leave. His country’s troops have started to move into “strategic garrisons” previously used by the Ugandans, he said by phone from Juba.