Friday January 17 2014

Legislators seek answers on army in South Sudan

By Mercy Nalugo

Parliament- MPs yesterday accused government of hoodwinking Parliament during Tuesday’s special sitting when senior officials told lawmakers that UPDF soldiers were not fighting in South Sudan.

Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga and Chief of Defence Forces Katumba Wamala told Parliament that the UPDF was deployed in South Sudan to, offer humanitarian assistance, prevent the war from spilling-over into Uganda and to rescue Ugandans.
Yesterday, that position returned to haunt the government. MPs were aghast at President Museveni’s admission on Wednesday that the Uganda army is fighting rebels led by Riek Machar in South Sudan.

The Defence committee tasked by Parliament to study a ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ signed between Juba and Kampala during yesterday’s meeting also unanimously agreed to re-summon Dr Kiyonga to appear before them on Wednesday next week - the second time in a space of one week - to explain UPDF’s actual mission which they said has become “controversial.”

At the beginning of proceedings, the MP for Butambala, Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, asked why officials were issuing contradicting statements.

“The background we were given in Parliament is that the UPDF was not engaged in military action. But the Commander-in-Chief was quoted in the media saying the UPDF has joined the battle. We cannot proceed with this meeting in the face of deceit to Parliament,” said Mr Kivumbi.

He demanded that the minister avails to the committee a copy of the letter the South Sudan government wrote inviting Uganda to send a back-up force in South Sudan.
Dr Kiyonga never answered the Daily Monitor’s repeated calls.

MPs also resolved to summon the Attorney General over what they called the unfair and unbalanced agreement the government signed with South Sudan.

The meeting resumes on Tuesday with a submission on the status of Forces Agreement by Parliament’s legal counsel.