December 30, 2013 (KAMPALA) - A Ugandan minister has described as ‘‘unfortunate’’ accusations against Uganda by former South Sudan vice president Riek Machar that a Ugandan jet bombed positions of forces loyal to him in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.
- South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar speaking to population in Walgak, Akobo county, on February 17 2013 (ST)
Bor fell into hands of renegade Sudan People’s Liberation soldiers loyal to the Machar after what the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir said was a failed coup attempt by his former deputy.
The town was last week retaken by the South Sudan army, with the assistance of aerial bombardment from a Ugandan MiG-29 jet, according to Machar.
Uganda’s minister of State International Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem denies the accusations.
‘‘If true [that Machar accused Uganda], it’s unfortunate that Machar is making such an allegation. We have tolerated and been patient with him. He [Machar] should look back before he makes such an allegations,’’ said Henry Okello Oryem in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Monday without explaining how Uganda had been patient or tolerated the former South Sudan vice president.
Uganda has in the past few years bolstered its air force with the acquisition of six Russian made Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter jets at a cost of $740m. The Ugandan military denies its jets have been involved in fighting Machar’s forces.
MUSEVENI MEDIATOR IN SOUTH SUDAN?
Ugandan officials claimed shortly after fighting broke out between rival factions within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), that Museveni had had a phone discussion with Ban Ki moon in which the United Nations boss asked him to mediate the conflict in South Sudan.
“The UN-Secretary General had a telephone conversation with Mr Museveni and asked him to intervene to find a political solution (to the South Sudan crisis),” Uganda’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Fred Opolot told a media briefing in Kampala.
But increasingly Museveni is not seen as neutral in the political crisis in South Sudan.
On Monday he told journalists on a visit to the South Sudan capital, Juba, that East African countries had agreed to ‘‘go for him [Machar]’’ if he fails to respond to the cessation of hostilities by the South Sudan government.
A communiqué released by the office of the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta , which the Sudan Tribune has seen says if Machar does not respond to the cessation of hostilities by the South Sudan government ‘‘the summit would take further measures.’’
The statement does not explains what is meant by ‘‘further measures’’ but it is widely believed to mean military action.
It is not clear whether other East African countries would be willing to commit troops to fight reengages SPLA soldiers as much as Uganda which has its military footprint in the entire great lakes region and even Somalia.
IF SOUTH SUDAN PROSPERS, UGANDA ALSO PROSPERS
There are fears among Ugandans that the perceived role of their country in the South Sudan crisis, which leans towards president Kiir, could lead to hostilities against Ugandan nationals in South Sudan among a section of people in the country.
Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda’s International Affairs minister dismisses such fears saying ‘‘if South Sudan prospers, Uganda also prospers,’’ and that no country had sacrificed as much as Uganda for peace in South Sudan.
‘‘No other country in Africa has sacrificed as much for the liberation of South Sudan as Uganda. Uganda sacrificed her own children, her own blood for the liberation of South Sudan. South Sudanese should appreciate this. The same Uganda cannot destroy South Sudan.’’
UGANDAN ARMY DEPLOYED
On Saturday Uganda said it had deployed troops from along the road from Juba to Nimule at the Ugandan border to facilitate the evacuation of its citizens caught by fighting in Bor.
‘‘UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Forces] deployed between in Juba and Nimule so our people can come back home safely. Anybody who tampers with that operation will be punished mercilessly,’’ minister Oryem said.
Last week Uganda sent a dozen buses to evacuate 1,550 of its citizens stranded at the UN base in Bor. Most of them have returned home voluntarily but some have decided to remain in South Sudan because the investments they have in South Sudan.