The Ugandan military has begun the withdrawal of 1,000 troops deployed for a regional peacekeeping mission in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The exit of the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) follows Kinshasa's decision not to extend the mandate of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) beyond December 8, said the military in a statement issued late Friday.
The pull-out of army operational forces and equipment in a phased manner, gradual, orderly, and sequentially deployed in March (2023) will end on January 7, 2024, it said.
Read: EAC troops to leave DRC
"UPDF will ensure to expedite the pull-out of its forces and equipment within the approved timelines as enshrined in the extra ordinary meeting of EAC CDFS (Chief of Defense Forces) held on Dec. 6," said Capt. Ahmad Hassan Kato, UPDF's contingent spokesperson.
The CDF's meetings in Arusha, Tanzania, upheld DRC's decision and recommended to EAC defence ministers that EACRF officially ceases operations in the vast eastern region of the country, with immediate effect from December 8.
Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan deployed troops following the decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third East African Community Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in eastern DRC held in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi last June.
"Uganda contingent urges all armed groups (in Eastern DRC) to facilitate the withdrawal of the UPDF troops by observing total ceasefire so as to allow the forces exit from the mission area safely," said Kato.
Other troops contributed by Uganda in eastern DRC in a joint military operation with their Congolese counterparts will continue the hunt against the Allied Democratic Forces rebels, according to the military.