What Uganda Army (UPDF) withdrawal means for Salva Kiir

By Risdel Kasasira, DAILY Monitor, OCT/18/2015, SSN;

When UPDF deployed in South Sudan 22 months ago, three reasons were given for intervention, including evacuating Ugandans caught up in the fighting.

The second reason was that UPDF had been invited by a legitimate government to ensure order and the third reason was that the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), had sanctioned the intervention following a request by the UN secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon.

What government didn’t say was Khartoum’s invisible hand in the conflict and also the need to protect Uganda’s economic interests.

According to military sources, President Omar Al-Bashir has been close to Riek Machar whom the regime in Kampala sees as an adversary.

Despite the war, South Sudan remained the biggest market for Ugandan products such as cement, beverages and agricultural produce.

Therefore, it was not a surprise that as the conflict escalated, Ugandan troops started fighting on the side of forces loyal to President Salva Kiir.

In the end, UPDF become a protagonist in the conflict and was accused of propping up Kiir’s regime. And indeed, If UPDF had not intervened, President Kiir would probably not be president to date.

What next?
However, with UPDF leaving, are Uganda’s security and economic interests protected? Is President Kiir’s interest to remain president secure?

Answers to this question depend on the internal political, economic and security dynamics in South Sudan, regional and international community interests.

But majorly, its regional and internal politics will be critical in determining the internal politics in world’s newest nation.

“There is a very big shift in geopolitical interests. President Museveni has reconciled with President Bashir who has been hostile to Uganda.

Therefore, even if Machar comes to Juba as President, his government may not be hostile to Uganda,” says Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, the Shadow minister for Defence and Internal Affairs.

Historical relations between Uganda and Sudan have been tense, with both countries backing armed proxies fighting over the status of South Sudan.

But in September this year, President Museveni made a rare visit to Khartoum that represents a significant shift in the relations between the two countries.

It was a smart diplomatic move by President Museveni to reach out to President Bashir because Kampala will now have less control over events in South Sudan without a presence in Juba and other parts of the country.

If regimes in Kampala and Khartoum are close allies, they can easily compel Juba to do what they want because South Sudan majorly depends on the two countries for survival.

LRA issue
South Sudan’s economy entirely depends on oil with the refineries located in Sudan and almost all food and other goods like beverages consumed coming from Uganda. Therefore, reconciling with Khartoum is not only good for Uganda but also for South Sudan and Sudan.

Anyone who wants to economically and politically distabilise Uganda will first distabilise South Sudan for it to be a safe haven for negative forces like the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels under Joseph Kony.

Northern Uganda is peaceful because South Sudan is Uganda’s buffer zone and that’s why Kony who was allegedly getting support from Khartoum was pushed out and later fled to the Central African Republic (CAR).

Some have previously argued that LRA can come back and attack Uganda and South Sudan with the help of some hostile regimes but no government or regime would want to be associated with a person like Kony who is being hunted by Americans and also wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Another critical factor that will determine South Sudan’s security situation is the 12,600 strong-UN force that is replacing the UPDF.

The force will be deployed under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter and it authorises the force to use “all means necessary” to protect civilians and deter violence.

If “all means necessary” includes carrying out targeted offensive operations to neutralise parties that violate the peace deal like Force Intervention Brigade in DR Congo, the UN force could help to bring peace.

But the challenge with such UN force is that it’s drawn from different countries with different interests and it’s not always cohesive.

“It might be business as usual where you have these UN troops getting good salaries and all the benefits but the local people are suffering.

It has been happening in DR Congo and other parts of the world,” says Sam Mwebaze, a Master student of International Relations at Makerere University.

It should also be understood that President Kiir in January 2014 accused the UNMISS, which is replacing UPDF of supporting the opposition, an allegation the UN strongly denied and dismissed.

Even last week South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei Lueth, told reporters in Juba that Salva Kiir was not attending the September 29 UN meeting because the UN had been treating Kiir like a “schoolboy.”

Role of UN
Therefore, there is already lack of trust between the UN and president Kiir.

More worrying, Juba is supposed to be demilitarised, and all government forces, according to the Addis Ababa agreement signed on August 26, are supposed to move 25km out of the capital and therefore president Kiir will be majorly at the mercy of this UN force.

However, Mr Ateny Wek Ateny, the government spokesperson, says the president will remain with about 5,000 presidential guards, fire brigade, police and wildlife warders.

“There will be no security vacuum. With these presidential guards and police, the city will be safe and the president will also be safe,” he said.

Mr Ateny also says government has more than 100,000 soldiers that can be deployed to defend their country.

But what he does not explain is why the government has failed to defeat Machar who now controls a swathe of territory with an intact fighting force.

A UPDF retired captain, who doesn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, currently working for a European security firm in South Sudan, describes SPLA, as “ a disorganised and poorly trained force”.

“They cannot stand and fight an organised force,” he says
He says when UPDF deployed in December 2013, it was not only fighting Machar but also reorganising the SPLA at the frontline.

“They have guns needed to fight any war in this terrain. But they are disorganised. They are poor at command, planning and war execution. They really need training,” he says.

Another problem president Kiir is facing is the ailing economy. And with this big number of soldiers, it might be hard for him to raise the money to pay the soldiers.

In May this year, Mr Kiir acknowledged in his speech that South Sudanese have been hit hard by the ailing economy.

He blamed the fighting and falling crude prices for hobbling his country’s oil industry, which is South Sudan’s economic lifeline.

In the same month, a team of South Sudan officials led by vice president Wani Igga was in Kampala to seek financial help but government sources say Uganda only promised it would offer financial advice.

With these changing dynamics, Mr Fungaroo argues that the regional leaders are “ditching” President Kiir because he has failed to solve governance problems within SPLA/M and they are tired of continuously supporting his government from falling.

“There is a shift in geopolitics. Salva Kiir is being ditched” he says. But spurning President Kiir would not be easy.

It’s also risky because edging him out would be opening another frontline that could divide the country that is already ethnically and tribally divided. END


  1. Sam R says:

    Do you people truly believe president Kiir in power today because of UPDF in the country? Is Riek Machar in control of both Bahr El Gazalle and Upper Nile region and the only place that’s preventing Riek is the existence of 100 Uganda troops in Bortown and Juba or else President Kiir would be out of power? Well; here is a dose of history for you to digest; in 1991 Riek Machar and president Bashir join forces together against SPLA; did SPLA in any way shape or form invited Uganda troops for their aids? It’s better for anyone to exhibits silent if one had nothing to say!

    • martin L. says:

      “Do you people truly believe president Kiir in power today because of UPDF in the country?” Of course, yes! What do you think is the purpose of UPDF presence in RSS?

  2. GatNor says:

    First of all there is no evidences of an invisible hands of North Sudan’s Khartoum government in the Dec/2013 Juba genocide of Nuers. There is also no evidence implicating Omar El Bashir of Sudan as involved in what triggered the ethnic cleansing. The author of this article is a merely attempting a distraction. I would encourage the author Mr. Kasasira to revisit and refer to the findings of South Sudan’s supreme court having tried the former detainees/the G10 as the accused perpetrotors of the so called foiled coup. Kasasira will should there and then give up his quest for distraction using thrown out cases to justify lack of creativety in finding a suitable topic to improvised for the incompetency. Kasasira and the likes should respect the court’s ruling since it the same kangaroo of the ruling tribe in which their cheer for in return for chum changes.

  3. Dear Risdel Kasasira,

    The withdrawal of UPDF from south Sudan means several things: in the first place, UPDF was not welcome in south Sudan. Their presence has been a thorn in the lives of south Sudanese. We must celebrate their exit. Secondly, UPDF failed to accomplished their mission and goal of defeating Dr. Riach Machar. With over 25,000 thousands UPDF forces, well trained soldiers, tanks, sophisticated weapons, and helicopter gunships they failed miserably. After taking some hard beating from the white armies, UPDF resorted to guard our airport and the highways: those are things that we don’t even have many in south Sudan. After the defeat, they later changed their mission that; they were in south Sudan to protect Uganda interest, really? UPDF are bunch of thieves and looters they have no interest in south Sudan except stealing and looting our resources. Thirdly, the first batch of UPDF went into South Sudan in 2000s to flush out LRA. Now we don’t even have LRA in south Sudan but we have still thousands of UPDF soldiers occupying south Sudan land at Ngongomoro and Pogee in Acholiland (EES). They refused to withdraw since 2005, what business do they have in our land if not openly occupation our country.? Besides, we have still thousands of UPDF in Western Equatoriai, where is their Joseph Kony? Let those Kadogoos go to Central Africa Republic or to Congo to search for LRA there. The withdrawal of UPDF from south Sudan means good things for us, and it tells the world that: we are a sovereign state not a satellite nation of Uganda. As for Salva Kiir, it will mean two things: either he adhere to peace process or turn to war. If he chooses the later, he will definitely loose because his God father, M7, Beshir, IGAD and international community are tired of his tribal regime. Much more his, engine of support M7 is beginning to turn his back on him by meaning differences with Beshsir and Riach Machar. The choice is clear to Salva Kiir, he must EMBRACE PEACE or else. For sure he is hesitant to take the path to peace that is why we have seen him panicking by: refusing to share podium with Rich Machar in the UN General Assembly, harshly declaring the 28 states, and dissolving SPLA secretariat. He is trying to gather support from all sides but wrongly, however, the game is on. So, the withdrawal of UPDF from south Sudan means a lot to us: that peace will now dawn in the fledgling nation because there will be no more hyenas to support Salva Kiir dirty game of killing innocent people.

    • Kolio Long says:

      #Lokilachong, 1. You don’t understand the history of S. Sudan the reason you’re accusing Uganda troops calling them a bunch of thieves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. What can a Ugandan steal from S. Sudan? Yr a hypocrite. 2. If it wasn’t for Uganda, S.Sudan would still be under Khartoum’s occupation. Your just wasting my time, may be if there other readers. go and read, make research before you post nonsense brother.

  4. Wau Naar says:

    You missed out two important points from your analysis: First, the involvement of President Omar el Bashir in Yemen – I am afraid this will be a game changer if he is not careful; what about the visit of Pope Francis to Africa in November? Where are President Kiir and his Master President Yoweri Museveni going to find the guts to look the Pope in eyes and shake hands with him if things remain in South Sudan as it is?
    Wau Naar

  5. Gatdarwich says:

    To hell with the mercenaries, UPDF. Let them all leave South Sudan soil. They will never be allowed to set foots on South Sudan again period. Cowards-civilians-Murderers-traitors.

  6. Defender says:

    Very plausible argument put forward by this article. The regional powers are convinced that Kiir, if kept in power for long, will be a liability. Finding way to slowly dislodge him from power through the mechanisms of the peace agreement is the surest way of returning the South Sudan to stability. With the shortage of money to continue to keep the patronage system alive, the regime may be looking at its slow death. The current shift and irrational decisions to breakup the country, dissolve organs of the party, is meant to put new cadre of his supporters in sensitive organs of the party so as when the dust settles and he is not there, he will continue to have influence through these people. This is not a guarantee either, for one sole reason. The SPLM has not built its brand based on loyalty but on a patronage system set around interests. Had the party been built of ideas, then we will for sure argue that the remnants of what will be left from the hues of his demise, will work to protect any legacy that he has built.

    So, as time looms closer to the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity, the rash of irrationality will continue to come fast and with little logic assigned to them as the case of establishment order currently being pushed through the parliament without due process. So, those who are jubilantly congratulating the president for the creation of the 18 additional states will come to realize that the kiir has promised them heaven but dropped them much closer to the purgatory.

  7. Ghol Chot says:

    Mr. Risdel Kasasira,

    I will be damned if you not are one of those evil corporate America and Europe trolls who are out in force in our region writing every piece of propaganda about South Sudan and the South Sudanese people. Uganda for your information have never fought any bigger war compare to South Sudan and the South Sudanese people.

    South Sudanese people fought the most well organised guerrilla war against the so-called cloned arabs of North Sudan and came on top. And we didn’t use any Ugandans mercenaries to fight for us.

    Now the Ugandan can just withdraw their soldiers and you clowns will not see Riek Machar and his Nuer goons anywhere near Juba or Malakal or Bor etc.

    Yes, president Salva Kiir let lax our guard down with his penchant to reward madness. But this time around, that is not to happen again. Riek Machar will not step his evil feet into South Sudan never again on our watch. We are back in the army big times in big numbers. South Sudanese people are conquering people chap.

    If you clown thinks you can play South Sudan like your Eastern Congo, then prepare yourself for a big fight in our East Africa region. That is what some evils in the US, the UK and some lowly criminals in-between want to replay in South Sudan anyway, but they are playing with fire.

    For your Uganda to gang-up with the cloned arab North Sudan purposely to bully the South Sudanese people, good luck. You fellows do not know the Sudanese people. South Sudanese people will destroy all the pipelines and keep our oil underground. No one will even dare buy any rubbish from Uganda if the Ugandans want to play balls.

    Fellows, be careful on what you are craving for in our country. Your propaganda aside chap.

    • info@southsudannation says:

      Ghol Chot,
      If you are aggressively asserting that you are ‘the South Sudanese people,’ then who is Riek Machar, is he not a South Sudanese also?
      And why shouldn’t Riek Machar not step ‘his evil feet’ into South Sudan?
      Surely, there are millions of other ‘South Sudanese’ who are anxiously waiting to welcome hero Machar back into South Sudan.
      Finally, let me remind you that this impoverished country called South Sudan shall be forever indebted to Uganda. Economically, educationally, socially and etc…etc…, you are forever indebted to Uganda, that means we are permanently ‘slaves’ to Uganda, and of course Kenya and Ethiopia and even Sudan to the north.
      My heart bleeds profusely these days when I see most Dinka and Nuer so-called musicians singing songs in the exact tones and tunes like jellaba Arabs in Sudan. I sometimes wonder whether South Sudanese really fought that so-called ‘bigger war’ you alluded to or saying you are ‘conquering people,’ when the truth today is just that we are just enslaved copy-cats of Arab culture and religion.

      • Editor,
        I doubt whether you are a South Sudanese, are you truly South Sudanese?
        A South Sudanese, journalist or editor who is always partial in his comments and articles.
        But I don’t understand as to why some of you are still bothering themselves and claims to be South Sudanase yet your true attitudes can actually explains who you are?
        We know South Sudanese not you or your likes.

        • info@southsudannation says:

          J. Chin Jacob,
          It’s funny you have a totally new concept and definition of what a ‘true’ South Sudanese should be like. In fact, if all South Sudanese were to be like you wanted, I believe deeply that our nation will be in peace forever.
          Please, try your very best to advise those in Juba leadership and I bet you will receive the nest Nobel Prize for Peace.

  8. Alier-kon says:

    Dear, Martin L
    what about malakal, Nassir, Renk, and Bentiu do we have the UPDF there to support Government yaa coward?

  9. jok lual says:

    ehy gatdarwich clos your dirty mouth and go to your state if you have a state i think your from gambela so this time no thing call upper nile rigon to control it by nuer never dinka padang go with his oil and dinka ruweng go with his oil go to khartoum or gambela no way brother by monyjang thondit

  10. BENSON says:

    Updf Will Harm You The Foolish Neurs The So Called SPLA ~IO

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