February 7, 2014 (JUBA) – Uganda may have helped restore stability in South Sudan, but its military involvement in the latter’s weeks of conflict would be at its own costs, according to the status of forces agreement signed by both countries.
- A contingent of Uganda Peoples Defense Forces soldiers (new vision photo)
The agreement, tabled before Ugandan lawmakers on 18 January, does not, however, indicate when the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) would eventually pull out of South Sudan.
“Member of visiting forces shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the sending state’s law and courts in respect of any disciplinary or criminal offences which may be committed by them in the territory of the host state,” partly reads the seven-paged agreement.
An ally of South Sudan, Uganda deployed its army in South Sudan, days after violence erupted in the capital, Juba in mid-December. Uganda initially claimed its troops entered South Sudan to rescue Ugandan nationals trapped in the violent conflict.
In accordance with section 39 of the UPDF Act, Parliament can ratify the deployment of troops in another country for peace motives, but an agreement has to be signed with that particular nation.
“In case the host state establishes any member of a visiting force has committed any criminal act in the territory of the host state, the host state shall promptly inform the sending state of the alleged criminal act of its member and avail the sending state material evidence pertaining to the criminal act alleged,” the agreement further stipulates.
According to agreement, Uganda would be tasked with compensating any third party claims emerging from its soldiers’ involvement in the conflict and both armies would not be required to make claims of losses incurred during the war.
As Ugandan troops alongside South Sudan army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir continue fighting dissident forces loyal to former president Riek Machar, the United States on Friday called for withdrawal of foreign troops that have interfered in the South Sudanese conflict.
“We urge the redeployment or phased withdrawal of foreign forces invited by either side, and warn of the serious consequences which could result from any regionalization of this conflict,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
The US latest call for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops comes as Juba and Kampala are finalise a military cooperation agreement between the countries, with the latter claiming it sent its troops helped to maintain South Sudan’s stability.
“I like the rhetoric, now they [US] can give orders because UPDF stopped a potentially volatile situation,” Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda, Uganda’s army spokesperson tweeted on Sunday.
UGANDA NOT WITHDRAWING FROM SOUTH SUDAN
Meanwhile, Uganda says it would not withdraw its troops from South Sudan, despite US claims that its troops were in the country contrary to the recently signed ceasefire agreement.
Lt. Col. Ankunda said Uganda intervened in South Sudan at the behest of regional leaders from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) after South Sudan’s request.
“Does somebody out there still remember that Bor town has changed hands 4 times? Before they ask for UPDF [to] withdraw?” he asked.
South Sudan’s ex-vice president, who now faces treason charges with three others, has openly criticised UPDF involvement in what he described as South Sudan’s internal affairs.