South Sudan

South Sudan Rebels Fire Back at Uganda

South Sudan rebels have renewed calls for the withdraw of Ugandan forces from South Sudan, nurse dosage raising fears the rebels could  use such an opportunity to launch a full-scale war to topple President Salva Kiir.

Dr Riek Machar’s spokesperson, about it James Gatdet Dak, said in a statement on Tuesday that the presence of UPDF in the war-torn country was entrenching what he described as Kiir’s “dictatorship.”

“Well, we want to say that Uganda’s influence on the South Sudanese politics from the onset is partly responsible for grooming the dictatorial tendencies developed by President Salva Kiir in the government and in the ruling party (SPLM),” said Gatdet.

“Also Uganda’s military interference in the capital, Juba, and Bor in January and beyond has not resolved the problem or stopped the violence, but unfortunately only succeeded in increasing the death toll, prolonging and spreading the war and the suffering of the people of South Sudan. So there is nothing to be enthusiastic about or give credit to,” he added.

The rebels’ response was triggered by media remarks attribute to Uganda’s State Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem, saying the Ugandan army would not withdraw from South Sudan until they are replaced by an IGAD regional force.

Gatdet said this, if confirmed, “this is against the provisions on foreign troops’ withdrawal as stipulated in the IGAD-mediated Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COH) and its implementation matrix signed between the two warring parties on 9 November in Addis Ababa. In addition, there is no need and it is not wise to deploy regional forces and regionalize the war.”

Uganda maintains a robust contingent of battle-hardened soldiers including Special Forces in South Sudan which were deployed there last year following the breakout of war in the youngest nation in the world.

The Ugandan soldiers have since earned praise from regional bodies and South Sudanese for stopping a possible genocide by blocking Machar’s rebels from crossing Bor to Juba.

But Gatdet seems to have been infuriated by comments attributed to Oryem in which the minister said Uganda’s military interference averted collapse of Salva Kiir’s regime in Juba, and that Machar’s rebels and Salva Kiir would have annihilated everyone in the capital and in the end Machar would have “governed no people” because only “birds, cats and dogs” would be running on the streets of Juba.

Gatdet fired back: “Hon minister Oryem, who hails from Northern Uganda, should have been the one to give credit to Dr. Riek Machar because he understands that Cde Dr. Riek Machar is a visionary and peace-loving person and leader.

He mediated the peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA between 2006 and 2008. Northern Uganda is now peaceful because of that effort. Hon Oryem himself was part of the government’s delegation at the talks in Juba under the mediation of Cde Dr. Riek Machar and he was actually the deputy leader of the delegation which was led by the current newly appointed Prime Minister, Hon Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.”

He added: “We in the SPLM/SPLA do not hold any grudges against the government and the people of Uganda, but would want to see the current leadership in Uganda play an impartial positive role to help end the war in South Sudan. Uganda should reverse the approach of taking a military side, which has proven unhelpful and problematic.”

Oryem recently said African Union may consider slapping sanctions on Machar if he does not cooperate in the peace process mediated by IGAD.

While Machar and Kiir last weekend resolved to end hostilities, fresh fighting resumed in the country hours after the leaders’ new peace deal.

President Kiir told the United Nations in September that his Government is deeply committed to “talk peace with the rebels to close this dark chapter in the history of our young country”, so the difficult mission of socio-economic development could begin.

He said Member States had no doubt watched in shock and disbelief as fighting erupted last December, “which was plotted by my former Vice-President [Riek Machar] who wanted to seize power by force”.

“He was too impatient in his thirst for power and did not want to wait for the general elections, which were scheduled to take place in 2015…” said Kiir, adding, “the failed coup and the rebellion that followed resulted in the loss of too many innocent lives, destruction of properties, and damage of community relationships.”

But Machar maintains the war was imposed on him by Kiir who was desperately trying to suffocate reformist voices within the ruling party ahead of the 2015 presidential elections.


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