May 19, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s government has attempted to justify the involvement of foreign troops in the devastating conflict, which has pitted government soldiers loyal to president Salva Kiir and defectors backed by ethnic fighters allied to former vice-president , Riek Machar.
- South Sudan has defended the presence of foreign troops in the country, which are providing military support to the national army as it attempts to contain a spiralling rebellion in the country (AFP)
Deputy speaker of the national parliament Mark Nyipuoc, a close ally of Kiir’s, said the violence, which initially started as simple administrative differences over political ideologies within the leadership of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), had claimed more lives than was lost in the past civil war with neighbouring Sudan from which the new nation seceded in 2011.
“The lives of the people who have been lost and the destruction done to the infrastructure just in few months of this senseless war is not comparable to the lives in the war of liberation struggle. In just less than six months, the country has lost lots of people and towns and villages have been set ablaze and razed down to zero mercilessly,” said Nyipuoc on Monday.
Nyipuoc denied that government troops had committed atrocities in their attempts to contain a spiralling rebellion in the country, arguing that the actions of the latter were carried out in defence of the country.
“There are reports circulating around trying to vilify and incriminate the action of the SPLA (South Sudanese army). The people who write these reports seem to forget the SPLA is a national army with [a] constitutional mandate and the responsibility to protect the lives of our people and their properties against from any form of threat,” he said.
“All their actions [during this conflict] were in defence of the constitution, the lives of the people and their properties from the rebels of Riek Machar,” he added.
Meanwhile, the speaker of the house, Magok Rundial, said his country was not an island and that foreign support was justified to contain rebellion in the country, which had spread like “wild fire”.
“We are part of the international community and in this world ... even the developed and advanced countries seek help. That is why you hear countries like the United States talking of allies. This is because no country can defend itself alone, so you have to team up with others in order to defend yourself,” said Rundial. “So what is being discussed about the intervention of the foreign troops, especially the role played by our brothers and sisters in Uganda and all those who extended us support during this time of the crisis, is something that every nation in the world has a right to do,” he added.
The senior legislators made the remarks during separate exclusive interviews with Sudan Tribune on Monday.
They were responding to the postponement of peace talks until 29 May over the ongoing presence of foreign troops in the country, which is proving to be a sticking point in peace negotiations between the warring parties.
The rebel delegation has demanded the immediate and complete withdrawal of all foreign troops, arguing that their continued presence goes against a January ceasefire deal which called for withdrawal of foreign forces in the country.
The Ugandan army (UPDF) deployed troops to the country to fight alongside forces from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) following the outbreak of violence in mid-December last year.
South Sudan has also categorically denied that Sudanese rebel forces from the darfur region are providing military support to the SPLA.