October 13, 2015

Ugandan army declares withdrawal from South Sudan

Ugandan army declares withdrawal from South Sudan

Ugandan army declares withdrawal from South SudanUgandan government has on Monday finally declared to withdraw its troops, the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), from South Sudan, but the South Sudanese army (SPLA) said the foreign forces should stay a little bit longer until security arrangements were made with the armed opposition faction led by former vice president, Riek Machar.

The announcement to start withdrawing the Ugandan troops was made in Kampala by the country’s foreign ministry in accordance with the provisions of the peace agreement signed in August between president Salva Kiir and his rival, Machar.

Uganda’s permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, James Mugume, on Monday announced that UPDF forces would begin to withdraw from South Sudan on Monday, 12 October, per the peace agreement which gave the foreign forces 45 days to leave from the signing of the IGAD mediated peace deal.

Addressing a news conference at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, Mugume hailed the UPDF for its two years of intervention in South Sudan, saying it “halted the massacre that was going on…in South Sudan and …saved lives of Ugandans.”

He said the government and the people of Uganda must abide by the peace agreement between the South Sudanese parties, hence pulling out from the war-ravaged neighbouring country.

The ministry of defence also confirmed the withdrawal of the country’s forces, saying senior military commanders were already on the ground in South Sudan to monitor the withdrawal starting on Monday.

“Yes it’s true the boys are coming home…as I speak the Chief of Lands Forces is in South Sudan. UPDF has 45 days to implement withdraw but team of senior officers such as Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta will do field monitoring,” the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala, told Uganda’s New Vision newspaper Monday.

Responding to the new development, the office of the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, said they welcomed the withdrawal of the UPDF, saying it was overdue.

“We welcome Uganda’s compliance to withdraw the UPDF from South Sudan as stipulated in the peace agreement. Actually it is overdue. The accord gave all foreign forces 45 days within which to complete the pull-out from South Sudan’s soil,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

He also added that the Sudanese rebel groups being allegedly hosted by president Salva Kiir’s government and fight alongside it against the armed opposition faction should also beat the deadline and move out.

However, South Sudan’s army (SPLA) resisted the withdrawal of their foreign allied forces, saying this should only happen after an agreement on security arrangements had been reached with the opposition fighters.

“UPDF will not leave South Sudan if SPLM-IO will not sign the minutes of the security meeting in Addis Ababa,” SPLA’s spokesman, Colonel Philp Aguer, told Eye Radio on Monday in Juba.

But Dak said the withdrawal of the UPDF didn’t require prior signing of the minutes as the peace agreement clearly provided for its withdrawal within 45 days, adding that the withdrawal was communicated to have kicked off on 10 October.

He argued that issues that needed prior agreement at the military workshop in Addis Ababa were matters to do with locations of forces cantonment/assembly, composition and sizes of joint forces which numbers were not clearly stated in the peace agreement.

UPDF troops were deployed in December 2013 on invitation of president Kiir following the outbreak of violence when Kiir and Machar disagreed fundamentally over reforms within the ruling SPLM.

The Ugandan forces have been accused by Machar’s group of prolonging the war by siding with president Kiir’s forces, doing most of the fighting between Juba and Bor, defending the two capitals and their surroundings.

The South Sudan had earlier said Uganda troops will withdraw from the country when a consensus on the implementation of the security arrangement matrix had been reached.

The presidential advisor on security affairs, Tut Gatluak said discussions between the government of the Uganda South Sudan on the withdrawal plan in compliance with the provision of the compromise peace agreement were in advanced stages.

“There is no problem. They [Uganda troops in South Sudan] are ready to change the area of deployment. Those in Bor and Juba will be deployed outside these places in accordance with the provision of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. The implementation process would have been completed long time if the rebels did not refuse to sign security arrangement matrix and our friendly forces would have changed the area of deployment”, Gatluak told the state-owned SSTV on Monday.

He described Uganda as a “very important and responsible neigbour” to the young nation.

“The people of South Sudan and the government are happy with the people and the government of Uganda. The leadership in Uganda has demonstrated a value of good neigbour and for us as the people and the government of this country (South Sudan) we see Uganda as not just a very important and responsible neigbour but as brother country”, stressed the presidential aide.

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