February 14, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, has admitted that his government is paying the Ugandan army for their military operations against the rebels led by the ex-vice president, Riek Machar, in order to protect the country’s leadership from collapse.
- South Sudan defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk (ST/File)
Speaking during Eye Radio’s ‘Sundown Show’ on Friday in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Juuk dropped the bombshell by admitting the underground dealings, contrary to Ugandan government officials who claimed Kampala was funding the military operations carried out by thousands of its troops.
“It is the government of South Sudan footing the bill of the operation which started officially on December 23, last year when a fierce fighting broke out in Juba and entered to other towns,” explained the South Sudanese defence minister.
"We are funding all the activities of UPDF [Uganda Peoples Defense Forces] and SPLA [Sudan Peoples Liberation Army] in our territory," he further revealed.
Reacting to the revelation, the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition said it was not a surprise, but a known fact that the people of South Sudan were “shouldering the burden of the foreign interference in the internal conflict.”
"It is an obvious revelation that Salva Kiir’s government has already spent hundreds of millions of US dollars of the public money to finance the foreign Ugandan army in order to interfere in the internal matter and carry out a genocidal mission against a section of the citizens of South Sudan," said Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak.
Rebels further renewed claims that the Ugandan forces allied to the “pro-Kiir SPLA” have yet again violated the cessation of hostilities agreement by carrying out more ground and air attacks in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Lakes states against their positions despite the resumption of the second round of the talks in Addis Ababa.
Dak also claimed that a joint SPLA and Ugandan troops on Thursday carried out offensive against the rebels’ base of Gadiang, about 90km north of Bor town in Jonglei state.
He said that earlier reports had indicated that Ugandan helicopter gunships have been attacking rebels positions in Upper Nile state over the last few days, contrary to the ceasefire deal.
South Sudan’s defense minister, however, denied the rebel claims, saying no Ugandan helicopter gunships had extended their air bombardments into Upper Nile, situated north of the country.
STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT
Last month, South Sudan and Uganda signed a status of forces agreement, which mandated Uganda’s military involvement in the new nation’s conflict.
But while Kampala may have helped restore stability in South Sudan, its military involvement in the country’s two-month old conflict would be at its own costs, according to the agreement obtained by Sudan Tribune.
“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.
Uganda, further stipulates the agreement, 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.