July 2, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Uganda’s former chief of intelligence has warned his country against continued deployments of the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in South Sudan and taking sides in an ethnic based internal conflict, saying the mission will have ramification which Uganda will regret.
Addressing a conference on regional peace and security in Kampala this week, David Pulkol, former director general for external security organisation (ESO), said the mission to South Sudan has the likelihood of backfiring as it will unnecessarily create more enemies for Uganda.
"For example, if you go killing the Nuers, these are not Kony; they are not Al Shabaab; they have in fact withdrawn from Juba to their home areas, and you take our national army bomb them in Bor and Malakal," Uganda media outlets quoted the former spy chief as saying.
The ex-spy chief criticized the deployments of the Uganda forces as “overambitious” and about survival rather than for peace and security in the region.
President Yoweri Museveni in the past argued that Uganda had an interest to safeguard in South Sudan, saying it benefited from the cross-border trade which used to generate hundreds of millions of US dollars every year for the southern neighbour.
But Pulkol argued that the deployments of UPDF forces unnecessarily went beyond securing the trade route.
"Even if you are securing Uganda’s trade route or hunting for Kony, then you should be where Kony is. What was the UPDF doing in Bentiu and Malakal?” he said.
“In the process of trying to resolve a problem, we could be actually creating a bigger problem for ourselves,” he added.
The former intelligence boss also served as a cabinet minister and MP in Ugandan parliament as well as formerly the executive chairman of the African Leadership Institute (AFLI), a public think-tank.
Leaders of the main opposition parties in Uganda have recently criticized what they perceived as president Museveni’s militarized political engagements amidst defection to a new rebellion of commander of the presidential guards charged with protecting the president.
Senior defence officials also admitted what they said was growing indiscipline in the UPDF, citing uncounted for deaths of “countless” UPDF soldiers in South Sudan, coupled with low pay in salaries and poor promotion systems as the cause for the problem.
Many MPs have also been agitating for withdrawal of the forces from South Sudan.
South Sudanese rebels led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar, have been calling for the withdrawal of the UPDF from the new country, saying the neighbouring country should not interfere in the internal conflict, which began within the ruling party (SPLM).
A cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January between the rebels and president Salva Kiir’s government provided for UPDF withdrawal, but the clause has not been implemented.