East Africa: ‘UPDF to Quit South Sudan This Week’

UPDF boss Katumba Wamala has insisted that this time round, the Ugandan army will not get sucked into the war between South Sudan rivals Salva Kiir and Riek Machar.

Last week, UPDF reentered Sudan to rescue Ugandans trapped by fighting between troops loyal to President Kiir and his deputy Machar. This attracted comparisons with 2013, when government said the UPDF had entered South Sudan to evacuate Ugandans, before later admitting that our army was defending Kiir's government against Machar rebels.

But General Katumba told The Observer on Saturday that there would be no partisan combat this time.

"We are not involved in the conflict; our mission is to rescue Ugandans and whoever needs to be rescued. We are not fighting anybody," said Katumba, who was attending the Rotary Go Kart Race fundraiser at Kololo ceremonial grounds.

"The operation is going to be limited to a number of days because we do not want people to misinterpret our presence there."

Asked about timelines, Katumba estimated that by Monday [ of this week], the UPDF would be ready to leave the troubled country. However, there has been no directive to pull out, with army spokesman Paddy Ankunda yesterday preferring to talk about the thousands of Ugandans so far rescued.

"We have not got the order to leave from Kampala yet. We are still evacuating because the numbers are so many," said Lt Col Ankunda, speaking by telephone from the border town of Bibia.

General Katumba said army chiefs from Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia had discussed how best to deal with the volatile situation in Juba. Also, the East African Community and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) were discussing the South Sudan crisis.

"The instability in South Sudan is our instability and it affects us very much," Katumba said. "Lives are being lost and the country is being brought down yet it is new. The South Sudanese people have suffered 40 years of war. This was their opportunity to develop but there is a war again, you cannot develop in war."

South Sudan is one of the biggest consumers of Ugandan exports, while Uganda has taken in the bulk of Juba's refugees.

Source: The Observer.