January 11, 2014 (KAMPALA) -The Ugandan People Defense Forces (UPDF) will not pull out of South Sudan until peace returns to the country, its spokesperson told Sudan Tribune Tuesday.
- Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda (new vision)
Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Ugandan troops were in the country on the invitation of Juba government requesting for immediate militarily intervention to restore calm in the country.
The two countries also signed a status of forces agreement, which legally permitted Uganda to get involved in the conflict, but says Kampala’s participation was at its own costs.
“Our forces are still there, we know the agreement and that is part of peace. We will not be pushed by anyone because when we sent our forces into [South] Sudan, we got everybody [had] run away,” Ankunda said in an interview.
Nobody will push us because we know our interest and we know that security is very important for everybody, added the UPDF spokesman.
He denied reports that the UPDF and South Sudan army (SPLA) had continued to violate a ceasefire agreement signed in the country, but admitted that Ugandan troops recently helped the SPLA repel rebel threats in Jonglei state.
“Four days ago, the rebels killed 10 civilians in Pariak. We also attacked them. So the violence is going on in those areas, but Ugandan troops were not involved in any fighting,” Ankunda stressed.
Uganda is accused by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) In Opposition led by South Sudan’s ex-vice president Riek Machar of meddling in the country’s internal affairs, contrary to the cessation of hostilities agreement reached in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The spokesperson of the Ugandan army denied Machar’s allegations and instead blamed rebels loyal to him for failing to adhere to what was agreed upon by the two warring parties.
“That is the question you should ask Riek Machar rebels and the other party to confirm their concerns. We think that the government should implement it [ceasefire agreement]. We should always respect the ceasefire because that is what we need for peace to return in that part of the country,” Ankunda said.
He however stressed that Ugandan forces will remain in the world’s youngest nation, despite recent pressure from the United States calling for withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
The US, in a statement issued Friday, said involvement of foreign troops in the South Sudanese conflict was in defiance of the cessation of hostilities agreement between government and its rebel faction.
But Ankunda insisted many more lives would have been lost had Ugandan troops not intervened in the South Sudanese conflict, which started in mid-December last year.
An estimated 10,000 people, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), died in the weeks of conflict, with as many as 850,000 displaced in various parts of the country.