World Bulletin/News Desk
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday met with a delegation from South Sudanese rebel group Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Following the meeting, a member of the rebel group described the encounter with the Ugandan president as "successful."
"This meeting is a step in the right direction. Now, Uganda will be able to have a role in the peace process," Mabior Garanga de Mabior, head of public relations for the SPLM-IO, told The Anadolu Agency.
The delegation has already met with Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga.
De Mabior said the delegation's meeting with Museveni was aimed at providing the SPLM-IO with some insight into what was being discussed by the upper echelons of Uganda's government.
He noted that the SPLM-IO's meeting with the Ugandan president had preceded a scheduled meeting with South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar.
"Our objective is to explore peace prospects in South Sudan," de Mabior said.
The SPLM-IO has demanded that Uganda withdraw its troops from South Sudan. Uganda, however, refuses to do this before forces are deployed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East Africa regional bloc, to the same areas.
De Mabior said the deployment of Ugandan troops was no longer an issue of contention.
"It is just the modalities of how it will be done that are yet to be agreed on," de Mabior said. "We don't want a vacuum to be left, but we are confident that Uganda will keep its word as per the cessation-of-hostilities agreement," he added.
De Mabior then pointed to the Kampala Document, which was signed in September, noting that his movement had recognized Uganda as a partner – not an enemy – in the South Sudan peace process.
Leading the SPLM-IO delegation at the Kampala meetings was Gen. Alfred Lado Gore.
The meeting was arranged by the Uganda Peace Support Team, which is led by Gen. Salim Saleh, a senior presidential advisor for security and defense issues. The team aims to support peace-building efforts in South Sudan.
Gen. Salim Saleh, who is also Museveni's younger brother, said Uganda had pushed for a peaceful resolution of the South Sudan conflict via negotiations.
Support team coordinator Ndiwalana Herbert, meanwhile, said his team was convinced of the need to use dialogue, not guns, to settle the year-long conflict.
Uganda has deployed troops to South Sudan's Jonglei and Central Equatoria states, which have been fighting rebel forces alongside the South Sudanese army.
Ugandan troops played a key role in halting a rebel advance on Juba in January and the subsequent recapture of the flashpoint town of Bor.
The SPLM-IO has been fighting against the Juba government for almost one year, since an attempted coup in the poor African country.
In December of last year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said his army had succeeded in foiling an attempt by some army officers to overthrow his government.
Led by former vice-president Riek Marchar, the insurgency has since cost South Sudan thousands of lives. Hundreds of thousands have also been displaced across the war-battered country.
In recent months, the two sides have come together for African Union-sponsored peace talks in Addis Ababa, which have yet to produce any tangible results.Last Mod: 27 Kasım 2014, 23:21