A Ugandan parliamentary report suggests the presence of Ugandan troops in South Sudan is unsustainable and a financial drain on the Ugandan economy.
The report by the Ugandan parliament's committee on defense and internal affairs also encourages President Yoweri Museveni’s government to work with regional and international partners to help stabilize the situation in South Sudan, which could allow the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) troops to return home.
Opposition lawmakers are demanding the immediate withdrawal of the UPDF forces from South Sudan, arguing that Uganda's economy cannot sustain the continued presence of the troops in the neighboring country.
Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said, however, Uganda will not withdraw the troops.
“The IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] force that was supposed to take the place of the UPDF has not yet become a reality," Kiyonga was quoted by local media as saying. "To that extent, therefore, we will remain put in South Sudan.”
A prominent opposition member of the parliamentary committee on defense and internal affairs, Muwanga Kivumbi Muhammed, said the government should withdraw the troops to save Uganda much needed funds that could be used to improve the lives of citizens.
He said the administration needs to explore all avenues to ensure the withdrawal of the UPDF forces from South Sudan.
“The committee report looked at the budgetary implications of our stay in South Sudan, and realized that in the short and long term it’s not sustainable. The economy of Uganda cannot sustain to prop-up a regime in South Sudan,” said Muhammed. “Ours was an advisory that the government should do all it can to find ways of cooperating with other regional bodies so that on its own we can have a withdrawal from South Sudan.”
Simon Mulongo, a member of the committee on defense and internal affairs from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), said the government made the right decision to keep the troops in South Sudan, in order to help overcome the security challenges there.
He said the cost of maintaining the UPDF forces in South Sudan are not as “enormous” as the opposition portrays.
Mulongo said the UPDF forces are not engaged in the ongoing conflict between South Sudan's government and rebels loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar.
“They have maintained position in guarding security installations both in the capital and in some provincial cities in the countryside, and some of the key areas like some oil production centers,” said Mulongo.