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IGAD Demands Rival Military Forces Leave South Sudan’s Capital

Tanks that have been destroyed during fighting between forces of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, on July 10, 2016 in Jabel area of Juba, South Sudan, Saturday, July 16, 2016.
Tanks that have been destroyed during fighting between forces of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, on July 10, 2016 in Jabel area of Juba, South Sudan, Saturday, July 16, 2016.

The regional group IGAD (Inter Governmental Authority on Development) in East Africa has called on forces loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar to leave Juba and be replaced by a protection regional force that would take over security in the capital.

Uganda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem said the IGAD-PLUS meeting on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali also expressed its support for the recommendations by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reinforce the U.N. Mission in South Sudan.

“Today had a meeting on South Sudan, and they re-emphasized the position that was reached in Nairobi. But more importantly, today they emphasized the need for neutralizing Juba.”

Attempt to stabilize situation

In a statement over the weekend, U.N. Secretary-General Ban urged the Security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan, enact additional targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders working to unravel the peace process, and fortify the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS.

Ban said any restoration of the Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan will depend on the full demilitarization of Juba.

Uganda Foreign Minister Okello Oryem said IGAD has absolute sympathy with the secretary-general’s demands.

Uganda rejects charges of favoritism

He described as “rubbish” accusations by some that Ugandan forces re-entered South Sudan last week to support President Kiir.

“Our troops entered South Sudan to evacuate Ugandans who are stranded in South Sudan. We have already evacuated about 5,000 of our nationals; we helped evacuate other nationals – Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, and many others. We are solely there to ensure that there is a safe passage for all those we are evacuating from the outskirts of Juba back into Juba,” Okello Oryem said.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the problem in South Sudan is a problem of leadership.

“The problem in South Sudan is a complete failure in leadership on the part of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. Those two men have poor serve their people and destroyed what five years ago was a promising new country, and if the international community engages in wishful thinking that these two men are somehow going to make up and lead to a transition is sheer fantasy,” Pham said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Okello Oryem said Uganda's candidate for the position of chairperson of the African Union Commission stands a better chance of winning when African leaders vote Monday at the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Our candidate is Dr. Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe who herself is a minister in President Yoweri Museveni’s government for many years, and then eventually was appointed the first female vice president in Africa where she served for nine years. She’s a doctor by profession, and for all intended purposes she meets the benchmark to be the chairperson of the AU Commission,” Okello Oryem said.

He dismissed the argument made by some that Uganda should not be given the chance to hold such an important AU office because the country under President Yoweri Museveni has a checkered record on democracy.

They cite the government’s arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye who was charged with treason following last February’s presidential election.

“I think there is something in the Bible where it says that he would who has not committed any sin to cast the first stone. Whoever thinks that should first of all look at their own house,” Okello Oryem said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this month referred Uganda and Djibouti to the U.N. Security Council because of the two countries’ refusal to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited their respective countries. Bashir is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Foreign Minister Okello Oryem said the ICC has lost credibility in the eyes of many African countries.

“The ICC should listen, listen, listen, and listen to Africa, but if the ICC keeps ignoring Africa and not listening to Africa’s concerns about the selective manner in which they are executing their justice, unfortunately, that would be the beginning of the end of the ICC as we know it,” he said.