From NEW VISION, Kampala, OCT/15/2014, SSN;
The South Sudanese government has signed a long-term agreement on military cooperation with Uganda, defence Minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk said on Monday.
Full details of the agreement are yet to be made public, although it’s understood it will allow Uganda purchase weapons and technological support on behalf of South Sudan if required.
The announcement came after Juuk and his Ugandan counterpart, Crispus Kiyonga held a meeting at which they discussed military and weapons cooperation, Sudan Tribune has reported.
“We have signed the cooperation agreement in order to work together and support each other,” Juuk told the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV).
The development follows the recent visit of president Salva Kiir to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, where he attended a summit on the Standard Gauge Railway, a regional developmental initiative aimed at fostering the movement of people, goods and services across the region.
According to the minister in the office of the president, Awan Guol Riak, Kiir was able to hold bilateral discussions with the heads of state and governments in the region, including the host, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, with whom the former discussed issues connected to peace talks in Ethiopia.
The talks, which are being mediated by the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental authority on Development (IGAD), are part of attempts aimed at ending the 10-month-long conflict, but appear to have hit an apparent deadlock recently over what executive powers should be granted to the prime minister and the president.
Museveni is among the key players in the conflict and the talks, given the Ugandan’s army’s (UPDF) deployment to the country following the outbreak of violence to fight alongside government troops, who are battling to contain an armed rebellion led by former vice-president Riek Machar.
Uganda’s involvement in the conflict has irked some countries in the region and there have been calls for the Ugandan military to withdraw.
A key driver behind Uganda’s continued desire to maintain its arms capability is its continued military involvement in South Sudan. Following the breaking out of fighting in Juba in December 2013, Uganda intervened, deploying two battalions into the country. Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF) spokesperson has stated that the army’s mission is primarily to protect key installations and to ease safe evacuation of the Uganda nationals in South Sudan. However, BMI(Boston, USA) believes that Uganda’s decision to deploy its military in South Sudan is less a benevolent act and more an assertion of its increasing regional dominance.
A senior military officer told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that the UPDF’s intervention, with its military hardware, had saved South Sudan’s leadership from being toppled.
“Out of record, I want to say that it would have taken us [a] much, much longer time to exert full control and to take back Juba, had Uganda not intervened in the last battle outside Bor (Jonglei state capital) around Jameza,” the officer said.
As such, we expect imports to Uganda, which lacks its own military-industrial base, from Russia and China in particular, to steadily increase for the foreseeable future.