KAMPALA, Saturday Monitor, JUN/29/2015, SSN;
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces will not pull out of South Sudan despite the peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir on Wednesday that directs all foreign troops to leave the country.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Henry Oryem Okello, yesterday said UPDF presence in South Sudan is not bound by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad)-mediated peace agreement and cannot withdraw.
“We are not pulling out. Uganda is not part of the agreement. We have a bilateral arrangement with South Sudan government like US has troops stationed in Japan,” Mr Oryem said.
Ugandan troops deployed in South Sudan in December 2013 following the outbreak of fighting between President Kiir’s government and the rebels of his former vice president Riek Machar.
The UPDF deployed in South Sudan at the invitation of President Kiir.
On Wednesday, President Kiir grudgingly signed the peace deal nine days after he had refused to sign the agreement that, among other things, requires all foreign troops to get out of South Sudan within 45 days.
“Warring parties agree[d] to a complete withdrawal of all state security actors allied to either party in conflict within forty five (45) days upon signing of this Agreement from the territory of the Republic of South Sudan with the exception of Western Equatorial State, based on agreements entered into by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan prior to the onset of the December 15, 2013 crisis,” the peace agreement says on foreign troops.
Western Equatorial hosts the headquarters of the African Regional Task Force, led by Ugandan military contingent, which is hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and its elusive leader Joseph Kony.
On Thursday, the UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, could not say whether they would be leaving or staying in South Sudan as per the provisions of the peace pact.
“I can only say that we have not received instructions to leave at the moment,” Lt Col Ankunda said.
Mr Oryem described the peace deal that is expected to end the 20 month-long hostilities as “a step in the right direction” much as President Kiir has expressed reservations about it.
The deal recognises Dr Machar as the commander-in-chief of the South Sudan Armed Opposition Forces, a provision President Kiir had fiercely protested, saying it was a creation of two armies.
• All military forces to move out of Juba and be stationed 25km away and be replaced by unspecified “guard forces” and Joint Integrated Police. Only presidential guards to remain in Juba.
• Elections to be held 60 days before end of transitional government’s mandate
• Rebel leader Riek Machar becomes “first vice-president”
• Transitional government of national unity to take office in 90 days and govern for 30 months.
• Fighting to stop within 72 hours. Foreign forces to leave within 45 days. END