News / Africa

Debate Continues Over Uganda Army Role in South Sudan Conflict

Uganda People's Defence Force troops ride through the streets of Bor, Jonglei State, on January 19 during South Sudan's month-long internal conflict.Uganda People's Defence Force troops ride through the streets of Bor, Jonglei State, on January 19 during South Sudan's month-long internal conflict.
Uganda People's Defence Force troops ride through the streets of Bor, Jonglei State, on January 19 during South Sudan's month-long internal conflict.
Uganda People's Defence Force troops ride through the streets of Bor, Jonglei State, on January 19 during South Sudan's month-long internal conflict.
Reuben Kyama
Speakers at a Nairobi forum sponsored by the Rift Valley Institute expressed concern for the future of South Sudan following a ceasefire agreement brokered in Addis Ababa late last week. Participants also raised issues concerning the presence of Ugandan forces in the conflict.

The negotiations were held by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body that was drawn into the brutal conflict following reports that Ugandan troops were battling alongside government forces loyal to President Silva Kiir.

Rev. James Ninrew of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan questions the neutrality of the peace process, if Uganda - a key member of the IGAD – takes sides in the conflict.

"As civil society organizations, we condemn negative intervention into the South Sudanese affairs because that is inviting further crisis rather than solving the problem," says Rev. Ninrew.

Is Uganda's military playng a neutral role?

"So for that, we are not for it. We are even questioning the role of Uganda or any other country from East Africa that is taking sides and also wants to sit at the table to mediate people.

Listen to debate over Uganda army intervention
Listen to debate over Uganda army interventioni
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"Is IGAD the only body that can do that? If IGAD continues doing that, getting involved in the war and at the same time sitting at the table, I think the voice of the South Sudanese will say no."

But Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed, says Ugandan troops are deployed in South Sudan to provide security for the troubled country at vital state installations, such as airports. She said the IGAD negotiating team was credible enough to carry on with the peace talks between President Salvar Kiir and his former vice-president, Riek Machar.

"On the presence of Ugandan troops in South Sudan, what I can tell you is this…when we had the IGAD summit here - if you look at the communiqué - the efforts to protect major installations such as airports were efforts that were welcome because we felt that they would provide an opportunity to take humanitarian assistance into South Sudan…

"That if those installations weren’t protected, it would be very difficult to convince flights into South Sudan. It was only when after these major installations were safe, they were secure that’s the only time planes could land."

Is the conflict ethnic or political?

Pundits say that violence sparked a political dispute between Mr. Kiir and his former deputy on Dec. 15 that escalated into full-scale ethnic conflict. 

Jok Madut Jok, co-founder of Sudd Institute, an independent research organization based in South Sudan, says the issues and the solution are complex. Jok said the parties need to "build into that final agreement a lot of mechanisms that will ensure crafting the country together …

"You need to give room to justice and accountability for acts of violence committed during this war. You need to address the injuries inflicted upon various ethnic communities so that as to repair the ethnic relations….

"That way people will invest in the idea that they are citizens of the nation not citizens of their communities. You need to build on the constitution so that the people’s voices and aspirations can be represented through it."

The world's newest nation may be fallign apart, cautioned Ms. Apuk Mayen, a South Sudanese diplomat working to increase women’s participation in formal peace processes.

"We are almost repeating the same mistakes that other African countries have made," she said. "I think we have failed because we fail to recognize that our tribes are actually political organizations. They have their own super structures.

"We have elements within our culture to govern ourselves, to mobilize ourselves to war. We are seeing this in some of the things happening."

If yoi feel threatened, she said, "you have mechanisms on how to protect and defend yourself.

"Unfortunately, in this construct of a state, it doesn’t work because we haven’t reconciled the state to this existing political organization that we have. I feel there are real questions that we need to ask ourselves."

The United Nations say thousands of people were killed in the fighting, and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: GatNor from: Juba
January 28, 2014 12:02 AM
Why did things escalated quickly into ethnic tensions? you would to go back to dec/15/2013 of the targeting mass murder of the ethnic Nuers in Juba by the government forces privately trained and funded by the presidential orders. That's what started all the other ethnic target killing in other states. The international community and the media outlets avoid mentioning Juba genocide in support of of the government who have committed human rights violations and practicing all out dictatorship policies. THIS IS AN EXCEPTABLE and it must stop. If it does not stop the world countries shall be blame for aiding mass killing and appeasing a regime as such. Please click on this and see for youself that Ugandan are fighting against one ethnic tribe called Nuer on behave of the South Sudan government based on a falsify coup to justify ethnic cleansing.The UPDF have killed in Jonglei State, South Sudan:
In Response

by: Adu T. Ismail from: Arua
January 28, 2014 6:51 AM
I thinks it is high time the South Sudanese must appreciate the sacrifices Uganda is making for Southern Sudan. Most unfortunately the Southern Sudanese are people who will never appreciate what ever is done to them. One thing i would like to assure GotNor is that UPDF is a professional army and to say that they have killed people is absolute nonsense. Just imagine if UPDF had not timely intervened what would have happened to both the Dinkas and the Nuers. Another Rwanda genocide was already going to happen. It did happen in Bor some years back and this was committed by very Rak Machar who keeps switching from one side to the other.

He confirmed this during Late John Garang's funeral.How do you trust such a leader who betrayed the southerner during the struggle. If he wants power why doesn't he use the ballot. Why doesn't he form another party and contest elections and if people want him, he is voted in. It is time Africa must wake up and stop such war mongers who cause the suffering of children, women and the elderly and stop change of government by the barrel of the gun. My appeal to the Southern Sudanese is they shouldn't support war. They should thank Uganda for stopping the genocide. It is time they should behave like civilized people. We are all brothers and sisters. We share many things in common

by: Tut Nhankiir from: Nairobi
January 27, 2014 10:46 PM
Museveni has fail south sudan and he is no longer anything of worth to the new nation though he has the trust of the president. we have lose so many live already through his wrong advice to kiir and now he should leave south sudan to south sudanese and go back to deal with James Konye
In Response

by: Muwonge from: Kampala
January 27, 2014 11:37 PM
If Uganda had not intervened when it did, Machar would be in Juba and the killings you have seen, would be like a small party. He would have killed much much more like he did in Bor some years back.

This is the same man who is friends with Joseph Kony. Therefore, M7 did the right thing. Fought Kony before he was able to start, by defending Kir against Machar.

by: Ann Garrison
January 27, 2014 10:24 PM
Can you really be serious in asking this question at this point? "Is Uganda's military playing a neutral role?" Museveni told Machar he was coming for him, though he seems to have spoken without IGAD's agreement.
In Response

by: Adu Twaha Ismail from: Arua
January 28, 2014 7:10 AM
Why should Uganda play a neutral role. We do not trust Machar. Such people should be brought to their knees. He is a war monger and hungry for power. He should use the ballot not the gun.

by: Bol from: Bor
January 27, 2014 10:14 PM
Some clowns in the West are fixated on the Uganda's involvement in South Sudan conflict. But they silent to condemn the attempted coup by Riek Machar and the open violent rebellion that ensued.

Instead, they they are shopping for another country in East Africa to Jump into fray and then the West game of divide and conquer would complete!

Africans are starting to grow up, the West will continue to hedge a few idiots like Riek Machar though, But East Africans have better things to do than being jolted by some war mongers in the West to intervene in South Sudan conflicts just because Uganda have forces in South Sudan, then another country in the region should also intervene on behave of Riek Machar, a violent rebel!?

Kenya has forces in Somalia and so does Uganda. So what is special about South Sudan. No one wants coups and armed rebellion in the region.

Riek Machar is even lucky to have been given time and negotiation. Otherwise the whole region would have gone after him. Refugee all the time is becoming unbearable.
In Response

by: Joseph from: South Sudan
January 28, 2014 1:09 AM
Uganda has right as an IGAD member to support South Sudan elected government in this current crisis playing her role to sustain peace in East Africa. This is to discourage unjustified wars not only in South Sudan but in Africa as a whole.
As Uganda puts it, African countries should not look on as their fellow African are dying waiting help from US,EU and UN.
In Response

by: GatNor from: Juba
January 28, 2014 12:15 AM
Too much lies, No coup, ethnic target killing in Juba dec/15/2013 and that's agenocide. Uganda must leave South Sudan and not illegally occupy our territory of a sovergn nation. Release all falsly detained politicians and we might start getting some peace talk going. Refusal of the above mentioned means the war must continue. It wouldn't matter if its on tribal lines or not. The national government of South Sudan has already declared it(war) on the targeted ethnic who was butchered, massively killed(genocide) without any of the victims being affiliated with the accused false coup. unarmed women and children do not orchestrate coup.
In Response

by: Muwonge from: Kampala
January 27, 2014 11:33 PM
I couldnt agree with you more. Its a well written response. We cant keep running all the time! Then when will we have time to grow crops, harvest them and feed our families, develop our countries? This sort of thing must stop.

Machar is just a war mongering selfish person that has no place in leadership. Imagine if Uganda had not intervened within two days. Juba would be under Marchar and with alot of people dead. He is the same fellow, who killed hundreds of people in Bor some years back, supported Kony, joined the arabs in the north against his own people, then switched sides again to fight the arabs.

How can you trust such a person with responsible leadership?
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