February 10, 2014 (RUMBEK) - Authorities in Lakes state capital Rumbek have denied rebel claims that a Ugandan gunship pilot was shot down last week.
- Uganda’s decision to intervene militarily in the South Sudan crisis has been criticised by the international community amid claims troops have violated the terms of a ceasefire agreement (FILE)
The state official accused the rebel’s military spokesman of making “fabricated” allegations to boost the morale of his forces.
Ugandan People Defence Forces (UPDF) commander Kayanja Muhanga also dismissed the rebels claims, saying his troops had never operated in Lakes state.
“The UPDF has never operated in Lakes State. The UPDF is only in Bor and Juba. Our helicopters have never gone anywhere apart from these two positions”, he said.
He said the identification number supplied for the alleged fallen pilot did not match that of any serving soldier in the UPDF.
“These [allegations] are just fabrications by the rebels there. I think they are up to something else, it is not true”, he said.
Ugandan troops were deployed to South Sudan after conflict erupted in mid-December and have been supporting government troops under president Salva Kiir to secure key areas from rebel fighters.
The deployment of Ugandan troops has outraged rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, with UPDF troops accused of violating the terms of a ceasefire arrangement signed between South Sudan’s warring parties last month.
The international community has also urged foreign troops to withdraw, saying Uganda’s military involvement could inflame regional tensions.
However, Muhanga stressed that Ugandan troops were abiding with the cessation of hostilities agreement and were not actively engaged in combat.
“Uganda is respecting it. We are part of the international community, we are part of IGAD, we are part of all this, so we have to respect the peace talks and at the moment we are not operating, we are in defence. That means we are in the defensive position”, he said.
Rebel spokesman Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang told Sudan Tribune on Friday that a Ugandan helicopter gunship gunner had been killed after coming under attack from South Sudanese rebels and falling from his helicopter.
The incident was alleged to have occurred on Friday about 1pm (local time) when three Ugandan gunships were carrying out bombings on the positions of defecting soldiers that were moving towards Unity state to join amassing rebel forces in the area.
Ruai said documents removed from the body of the deceased had identified the late soldier as Lance Corporal Jona Abuduku Alfred, a Ugandan national from Mbale.