The continued presence of troops from the Uganda People’s Defense Force in South Sudan complicates peace talks between the administration in Juba and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, according to Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, a leading member of the rebel movement.
His comments came after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he would only withdraw Ugandan troops from South Sudan after Juba is secured. The immediate withdrawal of Ugandan troops is a key demand by the rebels at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediated peace negotiations.
South Sudan has insisted the presence of the Ugandan troops is part of an agreement between two nations to collaborate on security issues in the region.
But, Gatkuoth said Museveni is partly to blame for supporting South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s administration in the conflict.
“The problem is President Museveni himself because from the beginning when the crisis started…He decided to go into South Sudan to protect Salva Kiir so that he can maintain him in power. This is a sovereign nation, you cannot just rush into it if there is a crisis,” said Gatkuoth.
“He should be focusing on mediating between the two brothers who are quarreling instead of fighting with one side. Yes he is going to complicate the peace process, because he is acting as if he is the president of the republic of South Sudan,” he said.
Gatkuoth however, welcomed a decision by South Africa, Nigeria, Chad and Algeria to support regional efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan.
“The AU [African Union] must end this war and we are ready to settle with Salva peacefully,” said Gatkuoth. “The role of the countries is very critical. They must work together with IGAD to bring the two parties together to a peaceful solution, so that we can bring South Sudan back to stability and development,” he said.
Gatkuoth also rejected demands by some former political detainees that South Sudan should be handed over to the United Nations to run the country.
The former detainees say Kiir has heightened ethic tension fueling the conflict and has failed to run the country effectively.
“I totally disagree with those who are calling for the UN to take over. Yes the UN should pressure the two warring parties to bring peace as soon as possible…South Sudanese voted for this country to be an independent country, and they did not vote for the country to be handed over to the UN,” said Gatkuoth.