January 16, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said power struggles with South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) caused the current crisis in the country, urging dissatisfied party members to quit and form their own parties.
- Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (R) receives a salute as he arrives in Addis Ababa for an African summit on October 12, 2013. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
"What is clear is that the problem started within the SPLM, the ruling party, as a power struggle. You detect ideological, organizational and discipline issues in this situation", asked Museveni while addressing International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in the Angolan capital, Luanda on Wednesday.
"Why should there be sectarian undertones or overtones in a political debate?"
He also stressed that those dissatisfied with the SPLM should go out and form another party and that government should neither stop nor impede party opposition.
The Ugandan leader, a close ally of South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, said members of the SPLM should have resolved their disagreements within the set structures, rather than going public.
“Why should intraparty matters go public before they are resolved within the party?” he asked, adding that it was "unacceptable" to turn a political problem into a military one.
ACCUSES MACHAR OF COUP
Confirming the involvement of Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) in South Sudan’s conflict, Museveni also accused the country’s former vice-president Riek Machar of an “attempted coup” in the capital, Juba.
“If Riek Machar did plan a coup in Juba, then why did his supporters capture Malakal, Bor, Akobo, etc?” The SPLA has flushed them out of Bentiu and Malakal”, he said.
He said Machar should have withdrawm to a remote area of the country to avoid attacks and start talks unconditionally so as to quickly resolve the problem and not to protract it, if he had no hand in the alleged coup.
Museveni has publicly admitted that both his army and the SPLA had lost soldier during these battles, but stressed that the rebels had suffered more casualties.
“We also took casualties and also had some dead”, he said, giving a chronology of several battles between the rebels and pro-government forces.
Clashes erupted in Juba mid-December following a dispute among the presidential guard, rapidly spreading to the country’s states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity. Over 1,000 people, according to the United Nations, have died and nearly 200,000 displaced since fighting started in mid-December.
But while South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Machar over the incident, the latter denies, alleging it was a move by his former boss to silence critics with the SPLM.