The voluntary withdrawal of Ugandan troops from South Sudan is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to fully implement the peace agreement signed between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, according to presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.
He says the pullout of troops from the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) from South Sudan will be completed within the first week in November.
The withdrawal was a key demand of rebels loyal to former vice president Machar during peace negotiations to end the nation's conflict held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
The government resisted the rebels’ demands, citing a government-to-government agreement between the administrations in Juba and Kampala that necessitated the presence of the Ugandan troops in South Sudan.
Ateny says President Kiir has shown the political will to restore peace in the country.
“This is a process that was provided for in the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan that called for the Ugandan forces and any other forces to withdraw from South Sudan… What it means is that the government is serious to implement the agreement,” said Ateny.
There will, however, be UPDF forces in South Sudan’s Western Equatorial region, where they have been stationed to pursue and combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, according to Ateny.
Opposition groups and rebels loyal to Machar say the pullout of the UPDF forces will be a significant boost to the implementation of the peace accord. The agreement aimed to restore peace to the country following the conflict that has displaced at least 2 million people from their homes.
Ateny says the rebels also will have to show commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement.
“The people of South Sudan are really willing to ensure that the peace agreement is fully implemented by both parties. The earlier the two parties implement the agreement the better.”
The government and the rebels continue to trade accusations about violating the recently signed agreement.
Aid organizations have expressed concern that the ongoing conflict in parts of the country is making it difficult to provide much needed assistance to citizens caught in the crossfire. Ateny says the government will provide protection for the aid workers in areas that national troops control.