Ugandan troops joining a joint military operation against insurgency in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) will pull out by the end of March, Congolese President Joseph Kabila announced on Sunday.
Kabila, who was visiting Musienene in the eastern province of North Kivu, said: "From now to the end of March, the Ugandan army will pull back and the encircling operation against the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)."
On his recent meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Kabila said that "relations with Uganda will improve in the coming days," stressing that Kinshasa and Kampala will resume both political and economic ties.
DR Congo invited Uganda and southern Sudan to the anti-LRA operation on Dec. 14 in the vast central African country's northeastern province of Orientale, where the rebel group has been holed up in recent years.
In February, the Congolese government said the Ugandan army would pull out by the end of the month, saying coalition forces had neutralized 80 percent of rebels and that LRA leader Joseph Kony had gone into hiding in forests near the border with southern Sudan.
According to Ugandan Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko, Museveni and Kabila "agreed to work together in ending that rebellion. This means the operation is still going on."
The two presidents met on Wednesday at Kasindi in North Kivu, where they also decided to effectively exchange their ambassadors as a token of normalcy in ties which broke in the 1990s.
A cooperation protocol was signed after the talks, under which Uganda will provide power supply to border towns of DR Congo, including Beni, Butembo and Lubero. The two leaders agreed to cooperate in exploiting oil in the Lake Albert region, which spans the two countries' common border.
Both leaders reaffirmed their determination to implement the Ngurdoto accord reached in Tanzania on the neutralization of "negative forces" operating in the northeast of DR Congo.
Kabila and Museveni signed the deal on Sept. 8, 2007 to defuse border tensions caused by LRA, which, notorious for mutilating limbs and abducting children, has waged one of the longest guerrilla wars in Africa since 1986, roaming between Uganda, Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic.
The rebel group has killed more than 900 civilians in retaliation for the launch of the three-nation operation. Its guerrilla warfare has left tens of thousands dead and 2 million homeless over years.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, has issued arrest warrants for the top five leaders of LRA on charges of war crimes and anti-human crimes.