Uganda military drive towards Juba, South Sudan, on July 14, 2016
Nimule (South Sudan) (AFP) - Uganda began late Friday repatriating its nationals evacuated from Juba, the battle-scarred capital of neighbouring South Sudan, a spokesman said.
As night fell, heavily-laden motorcycle taxis led a long convoy escorted by Ugandan armoured trucks mounted with machine guns as it crossed into Uganda at the Nimule border post, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Juba.
At least 300 people were killed in the city between July 8 and 11 during clashes pitting government forces against former rebels.
The evacuees were crammed into private, military and police buses and trucks piled high with jerry cans, mattresses and plastic chairs.
They cheered Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who on Thursday sent 2,000 troops into South Sudan to carry out the evacuation.
"About 1,000 evacuees are expected to arrive in a convoy of official and private vehicles," Patrick Okema, the police spokesman in northern Uganda told AFP.
"The convoy consists of about 200 vehicles in total: 42 official vehicles that left Uganda yesterday and the remainder private vehicles that have joined the convoy," he said.
"We expect that the convoy will return to South Sudan again tomorrow on another evacuation mission," he added.
According to the UN refugee agency, there are some 20,000 people in the Nimule area who want to cross over to Uganda, but most were stopped by South Sudanese soldiers who also stripped and beat some of them, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
Uganda's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem dismissed suggestions that Kampala planned to use the evacuation as cover for resuming the military support it provided Kiir during the civil war.
"We have a responsibility to evacuate more than 4,000 Ugandans in South Sudan. We have helped evacuate Germans, Chinese and other nationalities alongside Ugandans. We are there for a humanitarian cause not to fight," he said.
"If our army was going there (to stay) I would tell the world without fear. So it's rubbish, rubbish, rubbish to say we are deploying in South Sudan to fight for any party in the conflict," he insisted.
Uganda withdrew its troops from South Sudan at the end of 2015.