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We are paying UPDF operations, says South Sudan minister

By: TABU BUTAGIRA

Kampala: A senior South Sudan government official has said his country is picking the bills of UPDF’s offensive against Riek Machar’s rebels, contradicting accounts in Kampala that Uganda meets the costs.

Defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, made the revelations on Juba’s Eye Radio’s Sundown show, Sudantribune reported online on Friday.

“We are funding all activities of UPDF and SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army),” the publication quoted the minister as having said.

He said: “It is the government of South Sudan footing the bill of the operation, which started officially on December 23, last year, when fierce fighting broke out in Juba and entered to other towns.”

Mr Juuk’s revelations come at a sensitive time when Uganda defence officials are reportedly making final touches to a supplementary budget for parliament’s consideration, initially planned to be tabled this week, to pad financing gaps for the open-ended mission.

Ugandan officials declined to comment on whether the accidental disclosure by South Sudan’s Defence minister was true, and if so, to whom the pay is routed.

“I don’t have the answer; we will have to consult with the ministry of Defence officials,” said Amb James Mugume, the permanent secretary at Foreign Affairs ministry.

President Museveni in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief deployed the UPDF in South Sudan at the close of last year, allegedly at the behest of his counterpart Salva Kiir, after violence erupted in Juba and spread to other key states.

Parliament endorsed the deployment on January 14 after government said UPDF was there to facilitate evacuation of stranded Ugandans and secure critical South Sudan state installations, including Juba Airport.

MP Peter Emmanuel Eriaku, the vice chairman of Parliament’s Defence committee, told this newspaper yesterday they expect the Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga in parliament mid this week to present figures on Uganda’s expenditure to-date on the South Sudan mission and a breakdown of the proposed supplementary budget.

“As per the Status of Forces Agreement the minister of defence (Kiyonga) tabled before us, it is Uganda footing [UPDF’s] bill,” he said, “Now for him (South Sudan Defence minister Juuk) to say they are the ones footing the bill, I don’t understand.”

The Defence committee, MP Eriaku noted, had instructed ministry of Defence officials to modify the Status of Forces Agreement – with a proposal for the two countries to share the costs – and they expect feedback later this week.

Uganda’s military spokesman, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, promised to clarify the contradicting narratives on funding of the two-month-old war, but did not pick or return calls from this newspaper by press time.

The UPDF has been credited for normalising the South Sudan, and propping Mr Kiir in power, but emerging details of unattributed use of banned cluster bombs and requirements under the ongoing IGAD-brokered Addis Ababa talks, has seen growing calls, including by the US, for UPDF to withdraw.

The conflict

War broke out in South Sudan at the close of last year following a fall-out between President Salva Kiir and his former vice Riek Machar. UPDF intervened to save Kiir’s collapse, however, even as the Ugandan army receives significant praise for restoring calm, there are growing calls for UPDF to leave South Sudan.

Source: Daily Monitor

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