December 18, 2013 (KAMPALA) – A convoy of 14 buses each carrying about 70 passengers on Wednesday crossed into Uganda from Juba, South Sudan, a spokesman for the Uganda police told Sudan Tribune.
The buses, according to Patrick Jimmy Okema, of the Uganda police crossed into Uganda on Wednesday afternoon.
‘‘The 14 buses were escorted from Juba to Nimule [the border with Uganda] by the South Sudan army,’’ Okema said by phone.
Most of the passengers in the buses were Ugandans, Kenyans and some South Sudanese, according to the Uganda police.
Eight buses and 25 trucks laden with food stuff were granted entry into South Sudan from Uganda.
‘‘25 trucks carrying food were allowed entry into South Sudan and escorted by the SPLA to Juba,’’ the Uganda police spokesman said.
Juba has been tense since Sunday night when fighting broke out between rival factions within the South Sudan army- the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The security situation in city is said to have improved on Wednesday compared to the past two days.
Earlier, the Ugandan government said it was in contact with their South Sudan counterparts to evacuate its citizens from Juba.
A statement by the Information Minister, Namayanja Rose Nsereko said: ‘’ [Uganda] Government is working with authorities in South Sudan to evacuate Ugandan citizens as soon as possible.’’
The statement urged Ugandans in South Sudan to seek sanctuary at the embassy in Juba or at offices of the United Nations or any other humanitarian organisations.
UGANDA RECOMMENDS DIALOGUE
Uganda which is known to have long term close security ties with South Sudan also said it takes a ‘‘neutral’’ stand in the conflict threatening to plunge the two year old nation into a fully blown conflict.
‘‘The Government of Uganda maintains a neutral stance to the conflict in South Sudan and calls for restraint from the parties involved. We also recommend dialogue and a negotiated resolution to the on-going conflict in South Sudan. Uganda hopes that the conflict is resolved quickly in the interest of peace in South Sudan and stability in the region.’’
On Tuesday, a Ugandan government spokesperson in an interview with Sudan Tribune dismissed rumours that the country had deployed its special forces in South Sudan to beef up support for president Kiir.
Uganda has however now acknowledged it has deployed troops along the Uganda- South Sudan border ‘‘to prevent any possible spill-over of hostilities into Ugandan territory.’’
Press reports in the country quoted officials as saying the country had deployed 2,000 troops to patrol its border.
FEARS OF REGIONAL SECURITY THREAT
Uganda also expressed fears that the conflict in South Sudan poses a threat to regional security.
‘‘Like any other war situation, the current armed conflict in our neighboring sister country pauses a serious danger to the safety of many civilians, including Ugandan traders and our other citizens living and working in South Sudan.’’
For the two decades that it fought the Ugandan government, rebels of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) used insecurity in South Sudan to create safe havens from where they would launch attacks Uganda and flee back into South Sudan.
Chaos in South Sudan could provide the LRA with an opportunity to create bases in the country.
Conflict in South Sudan could also negatively impact on cross border trade leading to shortfalls in revenue for Uganda and possible shortfall in food supplies for South Sudan as the country imports most of its food products from Uganda.