Gbadolite- DR Congo (PANA) -- Thousands of Congolese women formerly married to and now abandoned by Ugandan troops after the Kampala authorities withdrew their forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are underrating local suitors here despite their desperate situation.
Uganda pulled out its estimated 6,000 troops last October in compliance with the 1999 Lusaka Peace Accord, a condition aimed at paving way for UN Peacekeeping Forces (MONUC) in the Congo.
Since the Ugandans' withdrawal from north-eastern DRC where they backed the Jean-Pierre Bemba-led rebel Movement for Liberation of Congo (MLC), the territory of eight million people on a land area almost twice the size of Uganda, is undergoing a social crisis.
According to the women in the area, their men here are having hard time measuring up to the treatment they received from UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces) troops who occupied the area.
During their four-year stay from early 1998, the Ugandans married the local women, the majority of whom have more than two children.
But when the soldiers were given marching orders to return home in a three-week withdrawal, none was allowed to bring his spouse or their children.
In effect, the orders have created thousands of broken families.
Today thousands of the women are trying to come to terms with husbands' untimely withdrawal.
"They are commonly referred to as UPDF widows because they do not know whether their former darlings are still alive since they could have died at other war fronts," a Gbadolite-based Radio Liberty journalist says.
"Others still hope that their men will one day return.
Many others gang up in small groups and trek on foot for several weeks through harsh terrain towards the Ugandan border.
We don't know whether they ever reach the country.
"They say they found in the Ugandan soldiers qualities not exhibited to them before.
Quite often young men here are heard and seen in bitter exchanges with some of the former Uganda army wives over this difference," he adds.
Meki Merida, 33, a local trader in ladies garments adds that the women are struggling now to fend for themselves and feed their children.
"A few, though, forgot all about their former husbands and are getting engaged with [Congolese men].
But the majority, especially those who were married to us before the Ugandan soldiers, openly tell us that we're poor in bed and find it difficult to sustain a relationship with us," Merida told PANA.
A cross-section of the former wives to the Ugandan troops in villages on the periphery of Gbadolite still harbour hopes of seeing their men one day.
"We request you journalists to convey our plea to the Ugandan government to allow us to be re-united with our husbands.
We are also requesting the MLC leadership here to fly us to Uganda to meet our husbands," Francissen Mbiliga, 26, and a mother of three children, tells PANA.
Joan Ashusi, 27, a mother of two toddlers, tells of immense hardship to feed her children, saying that while living with her husband, a lieutenant, all basics were available and her children were healthy.
But since the pullout, the children are now malnourished and sickly.
"I pray that he will return one day soon to take us back to Uganda.
Two of my other sisters are suffering the same fate.
Our mother's health, which had improved with the support of our Ugandan husbands, has worsened," she says of her current ordeal.