By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda will reassess its military and peacekeeping operations in regional hotspots, a government minister said on Thursday, after the United Nations accused it and neighboring Rwanda of backing Congolese rebels.
A U.N. panel of experts said Uganda had sent troops to aid the insurgency in a deadly attack on U.N. peacekeepers and continued to support the so-called M23 rebel group commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ugandan soldiers account for more than a third of the more than 17,600 U.N.-mandated African peacekeepers battling al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in Somalia.
Ugandan troops backed by U.S. special forces are leading the hunt for fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in Central African Republic, with some stationed in South Sudan.
"Uganda is reassessing all its peacekeeping engagements and operations in the region," Okello Oryem, Uganda's junior foreign affairs minister, told Reuters.
"We're trying to determine the worthiness of these operations? Does it make sense any more to be part of these missions."
Rwanda and Uganda repeatedly have denied backing M23.
Earlier this week the Ugandan government said it might cease mediating between the government Kinshasa and M23 rebels if the U.N. Security Council endorsed the report's findings.
Oryem declined to comment on whether Uganda's reassessment of military operations on foreign soil was sparked by the U.N. paper.
Timothy Kalyegira, a prominent Ugandan political analyst, said Uganda was likely trying to call the U.N.'s bluff and was unlikely to withdraw its Soldiers.
Uganda benefits financially from its military deployment in Somalia, while its soldiers gain experience in urban counter-insurgency warfare. Its troop presence in Somalia, South Sudan and CAR also give the Ugandan military an enhanced footprint across the region.
"They know they have to show all the indignation and make a statement of defiance and call their bluff and it sure will work," Kalyegira said.
Somalia, in particular, is a battle few Western powers have the stomach for.
"The West is struggling financially already and militarily over stretched elsewhere and the Ugandan government knows this," Kalyegira said.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Richard Lough and Michael Roddy)