Friday January 10 2014

Legislators, minister clash over UPDF presence in South Sudan


PARLIAMENT - Chaos erupted in Parliament after members of the parliamentary Defence Committee clashed with each other over the way government was handling the process of deploying UPDF troops in South Sudan.

It all began when the opposition legislators, Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, (Kyadondo East) and Mukasa Kivumbi (Butambala) took on their NRM counterparts and accused them and the committee chairperson, Ms Benny Namugwanya Bugembe, of conspiring with the Defence Minister to fail yesterday’s meeting and the consequent meetings.

The Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, was expected before the committee yesterday to explain the country’s military presence in South Sudan without constitutional approval but he did not show up.

Whereas his junior minister, Gen Jeje Odong appeared before the committee to ask legislators for more time “to recall my team [his staff] back”, the opposition MPs claimed that their NRM colleagues and the minister were plotting against the committee meeting.

Gen Odong said he did not have all his staff around and therefore could not brief the committee but the opposition MPs insisted government did not want to feed them with answers after they deployed without parliamentary approval.

“I have established from reliable sources that the minister’s excuse [to ask for more time] is a cover up because by yesterday, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, was on his way to deploy UPDF soldiers in South Sudan to guard the oil wells there after Khartoum pulled out,” said Mr Ssemuju.

He claimed that Mr Kiyonga had also headed to South Sudan, an allegation that Gen Odong dismissed. He said that Gen Wamala was at the border in West Nile while other officials were out of the country.

“Government says it is there [in South Sudan] on the invitation of South Sudan but they had long deployed the soldiers and they are now buying time with the connivance of NRM committee members because they have no answers,” said Mr Ssemuju The MP claimed that their NRM colleagues had met earlier in the morning to strategise on how to fail yesterday’s meeting.