August 21, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Officials of a high level delegation of the South Sudanese rebels led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar, have announced the end of their four-day visit to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, describing it as encouraging.
- Mabior Garang de Mabior (L), the son of late South Sudanese leader John Garang and member of the rebel negotiating team, arrives in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, with other delegates on 2 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Elais Asmare)
The delegation led by the deputy chairman of the SPLM-IO, General Alfred Ladu Gore, deputized by the chairman for external relations, Dhieu Mathok, said the dialogue with the top leadership of the Ugandan government would continue with their group in finding a lasting solution to the crisis in South Sudan.
In a press release seen by Sudan Tribune issued on Thursday in Kampala by the rebels chairperson for information and public relations, Mabior Garang de Mabior, the South Sudanese armed opposition group said the objective of the visit was to discuss the prospects for peace in South Sudan.
Mabior, who took part in the delegation, said the mission was facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which mediates the peace process in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between the two warring parties.
He said the meeting they conducted while in Kampala were encouraging and would continue.
“The SPLM/SPLA is encouraged by this meeting, and looks forward to continued dialogue with the Government of Uganda (GoU) to find a lasting peace for the people of the Republic of South Sudan,” partly reads the press release.
The rebels spokesperson did not however clarify the kind of meeting they had held with the Ugandan authorities.
Sources with the knowledge of the meetings however told Sudan Tribune that the rebel delegation met President Yoweri Museveni and other senior officials of government including the minister of foreign affairs and minister of defence, among others.
Mabior pointed out that Uganda had influence on Salva Kiir’s government and that the visit also explored ways the southern neighbouring country could use its influence on Juba to end the war.
“The SPLM/SPLA recognizes the influence that the GoU [Government of Uganda] has on the GRoSS [Government of Republic of South Sudan]; and we believe it can play a positive role in influencing the GoRSS to commit to the ongoing peace process in Addis Ababa,” the statement further reads.
The rebels have been accusing Uganda of interference in the internal conflict which started as a political rivalry within the South Sudan’s ruling party, the SPLM. They have been calling for withdrawal of thousands of Ugandan troops who have been deployed to South Sudan since mid-December and have been fighting alongside president Salva Kiir’s government.
It was not clear from the rebels’ statement whether they discussed with the Ugandan authorities the fate of the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in South Sudan and the response they received.
Uganda also reportedly demanded payment of millions of dollars by South Sudan of three month arrears in order to continue to support and fight for Kiir’s government.
Analysts say Kampala may want to engage the rebels led by Machar in trying to find a solution for exit strategy.
Rebels said Ugandan troops continued presence in South Sudan constitutes a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement which the rebels signed with the government on 23 January.
ARMY ACCUSED OF FRESH ATTACKS
Meanwhile the rebels have also accused the government forces of attacking their positions in Upper Nile state.
Rebels military spokesperson, Brig Lul Ruai Koang, said their forces came under separate attacks on Thursday.
“This morning 8:00AM-9:00AM, government troops shelled and launched ground attacks on our positions at Dolieb Hills and Papew, Panyikang County in Upper Nile and Khorflus-Pigi County in Jonglei States,” he said in a press release on Thursday.
He alleged that the shelling and attacks occurred while the rebel forces were on morning parade, listening to messages on the opposition group’s proposals on transitional governance, security, economic and finance resource management which the rebels submitted to IGAD mediation team and other stakeholders.
“The latest attacks on our positions is a clear indication that the government and its army has chosen the path to war instead of road to peace,” he added.
Koang however stressed that while the SPLA in opposition reiterated commitment to all agreements signed with the government, it also reserved the right to fight in self-defence and to “implement resistance movement’s containment policy.”
The rebels spokesman further called on IGAD, regional and international partners to persuade president Kiir and army to observe the ceasefire deal between the two warring parties.