World Bulletin / News Desk
The Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) has said it was operating in neighboring South Sudan in line with a bilateral security agreement with Juba.
"We're operating under a bilateral mandate that the government of Uganda arrived at with the government of South Sudan," UPDF spokesman Paddy Ankunda told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
He said that Ugandan troops had been deployed in South Sudan at the invitation of the Juba government.
"[South Sudanese] President Salva Kiir was frustrated with regional leaders who did not respond to his call," Ankunda asserted. "It's the UPDF that actually responded in the affirmative and deployed troops."
He said the bilateral agreement provided a safe environment for the UPDF to operate in South Sudan.
Uganda deployed troops to South Sudan on December 24 in order to help evacuate Ugandan nationals from the war-ravaged country.
The troops were later asked to secure the Juba airport and other vital strategic installations so as to enable the evacuation of Ugandans and other nationals.
South Sudanese Defense Minister Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk has confirmed that the UPDF was helping his forces battle rebels loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar.
"The presence of the UPDF in the country is as it came in the Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries to support the Sudan People's Liberation Army against the rebels and help in securing the capital, Juba," Juuk told Anadolu Agency earlier on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted that the UPDF had engaged in combat operations in South Sudan, fighting alongside Kiir's troops.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The UN estimates that at least 1,000 people have been killed and nearly 230,000 displaced by the violence.
Uganda shouldn't take sides in S. Sudan
A former Ugandan spy chief believes his country shouldn't take sides in the ongoing conflict in neighboring South Sudan.
"It [intervention] should be in such a way as not to make [South Sudanese President] Salva Kiir intransigent," David Pulkol, former chief of Uganda's External Security Organization, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"It should be to make him [Kiir] survive only to enter into negotiations," he added.
"It should not be to tilt the battle in favor of Kiir against [sacked South Sudanese vice president Riek] Machar."
"The other day, January 13, the Sudan People's Liberation Army and elements of our army had a big battle with these rebel troops at a point about 90km from Juba, where we inflicted a big defeat on them," he told an international conference in Angola.
"Unfortunately, many lives were lost on the side of the rebels," he added. "We also took casualties and also had some dead."
Pulkol revealed that when three American CV-22 Osprey military aircraft were attacked last December near Bor, the UPDF had already been active in the area without the knowledge of the Americans.
"I wish they had coordinated with America," Pulkol told AA. "They would have handled their rescue differently."
"They [the Americans] went knowing they were not provoking any situation, but little did they know the UPDF Air Force had been there in operation, so they were mistakenly shot," he said.
According to Pulkol, the only reason Uganda had been able to respond so quickly was because the battalion it sent had been intended for Somalia.
"This batch was being prepared to go to Somalia, so it was easy to switch and get them to Juba quickly," he explained.
But UPDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda dismissed Pulkol's assertion.
"That's a lie," he told AA. "We have a contingent of reservists that is undergoing training meant for Somalia."
Ankunda insisted that troops deployed in South Sudan "were in completely different areas of our country, undertaking other duties; when duty called, they were taken to South Sudan."
Pulkol, for his part, stressed that Uganda's role should be to help stabilize Juba so the city doesn't fall.
Pulkol recognizes the need for a force tasked with preventing more bloodshed between the two tribes so that "the international community can come and investigate [and] so the International Criminal Court can come and hold those responsible accountable."Last Mod: 17 Ocak 2014, 10:29