February 21, 2014 (JUBA) – Uganda has no desire to keep its troops on South Sudan soil longer than it is necessary and will gradually withdraw them in compliance with the African Union proposal for the deployment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis (ACIRC) in the new nation, its foreign affairs minister said.
- Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni visits his soldiers in South Sudan’s Jonglei state on 19 February 2014 (PPU)
"The deployment of ACIRC in South Sudan will facilitate Uganda’s progressive withdrawal and/or redeployment", Sam Kuteesa said in a statement.
The AU Peace and Security, he added, was expected to meet at an appropriate time, to work out modalities for deployment of ACIRC in South Sudan before the countries that have voluntarily pledged capacity to ACIRC may then provide such support.
"We believe that the deployment of ACIRC is the most logical way to withdraw from South Sudan, without leaving a security vacuum that that can be taken advantage of," Kuteesa further said.
"We further believe that a political solution will bring about lasting and sustainable peace to this young and sisterly Nation of South Sudan", he added.
Uganda deployed a contingent of its troops in South Sudan after the outbreak of violence in the country on December 15 last year. Its involvement in the conflict has, however, been widely criticised with the the latest being the United States demanding immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops fighting in the conflict.
But Uganda’s involvement in the over two-month conflict is guided by a Status of Forces Agreement both Khartoum and Juba governments signed at the behest of the latter.
MUSEVENI MAKES SURPRISE VISIT
The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni made a surprise visit to South Sudan to see his troops in the front-line fighting alongside forces loyal to the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir against troops allied to his former vice-president, Riek Machar.
Museveni on Wednesday held a lengthy closed-door discussion in Juba with his South Sudanese counterpart, mainly focusing on the future of their alliance.
The Ugandan leader also visited his troops on the front-line in Bor town, the capital of Jonglei state, which his forces claimed to have recaptured from the rebels after exchanging hands four times in January.
There were, however, no official statements from the presidency on the contents of the secret meeting.
Ateny Wek Ateny, who speaks for the president confirmed the visit, but declined to make any comments on the visit because it was at the level of the two presidents.
“I have no comment to make on the visit because the discussions were between the two heads of state. I was not part of the meeting so I do not know what the two leaders have discussed. I have no information as such”, Ateny told Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Sources close to the leadership in Juba, however, said the visit aimed at assessing the security situation in areas where Ugandan troops are fighting alongside South Sudanese army against the rebels and to boost their moral with assurances of increased double payments and military promotions.
“The leaders discussed the need to respect terms of source funding for military operations, including keeping confidential information relating to the source of funding,” the source revealed.
The Ugandan cabinet also approved Shs120 billion in supplementary budget largely meant to finance the ongoing operations of the Ugandan army in South Sudan, according to the independent Daily Monitor newspaper.
Such voices started appearing in Uganda after South Sudan defense minister revealed that its government was covering all the activities, including feeding, payments for personnel weapons, transportation of all military related cargoes as well related allowances.
The two leaders also discussed the status of the remaining detainees and the need for two presidents to strategise and agree on a political ploy to partially disengage and pull out Ugandan troops from South Sudan.
The visit also came a day after the rebels allied to Machar, recaptured the strategic town of Malakal, the capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state where 70% of the country’s revenues comes from.
This means announcement would be made through the regional bloc (IGAD) in coming days. The result of this is the pressure on Uganda from Norway, Britain, the United States as well as the IGAD member countries. America has already threatened to suspend foreign aids to Uganda in the event it failed to comply.