Ugandan troops have begun pulling out of South Sudan's Jonglei state, in compliance with the terms of a peace deal signed by the warring South Sudanese sides two months ago.
The Ugandan flag was lowered and the South Sudan flag raised at a barracks seven kilometers from Jonglei state capital, Bor, where a farewell ceremony was held for the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) on Tuesday.
South Sudanese military officers presented gifts to the departing Ugandan troops to show their appreciation for the role the UPDF has played in securing Bor and other parts of Jonglei state during South Sudan’s 20-month conflict.
The conflict formally ended in August when President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar reached a peace agreement, which calls, among other things, for state security actors allied to either side in the fighting to withdraw from South Sudan within 45 days of the signing of the deal.
President Kiir signed the agreement on August 26th – the last of the warring parties to do so.
Exempt UPDF troops
Ugandan troops that were deployed in Western Equatoria state before South Sudan erupted in conflict in December 2013 do not have to withdraw from South Sudan, under the terms of the agreement. Those forces are there to help in the fight against armed groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Bor resident Jacob Kuany said he is sorry to see the Ugandan troops go.
"It was my understanding they would remain as part of a peacekeeping force because they know the story of what happened in South Sudan," Kuany said.
"During the conflict, they really came in and helped their fellow Ugandans and the civilians of South Sudan who were caught up in the fighting,” he said.
Ugandan troops were deployed in Bor just days after fighting erupted in Juba in mid-December 2013. The Jonglei state capital was the scene of heavy fighting early on in the conflict, but has been largely stable for the past 21 months.
General Door insisted the withdrawal of the UPDF from Jonglei will not affect security in the state.
"There will be no vacuum because they entered Bor two years ago and they were only stationed in Bor town," he said, adding that the SPLA has troops around the state and they will continue to provide security to South Sudanese.
According to the peace deal, a joint integrated police force – the size and composition of which was supposed to be determined at a workshop in Addis Ababa last month – will be in charge of security in Bor and several other towns, after the UPDF completes its withdrawal.
A beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force, which the U.N. Security Council has mandated to use any means necessary to protect civilians and stop violence, will help to keep towns like Bor safe and peaceful.