Wednesday January 22 2014

Nine soldiers killed in South Sudan

By Barbara Among

Nine Ugandan soldiers have been killed and 12 others wounded during a month fighting in South Sudan, the army said Tuesday, dismissing rebel claims to have killed scores.

The army spokesman, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said the troops had been killed in a single rebel attack on January 14, the day Ugandan Parliament approved its deployment in South Sudan in support of President Salva Kiir.

"Let there be no speculation anymore; Uganda has lost nine soldiers and 12 injured in South Sudan," tweeted Col Ankunda. “The nine UPDF soldiers died in a rebel ambush at Gemeza a week ago.”

Uganda deployed its troops in South Sudan around December 20, five days after the fighting erupted between soldiers loyal to President Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.

The UPDF are fighting alongside SPLA, leading to the recapture of the strategic town of Bor on Saturday and Malakal yesterday (Monday).

The rebels, currently in peace talks with Kiir's government in Ethiopian mediated by the East African regional bloc IGAD, have demanded Uganda withdraws all forces as a precondition to signing the cessation of hostility.

However, no statement has been made as to when Uganda would withdraw from South Sudan. Lt Col paddy instead said “UPDF not intent on staying for long in South Sudan.”

The January 10 status of force agreement between Uganda and South Sudan gives Uganda free entry and exit into the world's youngest nation and does not spell out any rules of engagement. It is also quiet on the length of stay of UPDF in south Sudan.

The Khartoum government raised concerns over Uganda’s military involvement in South Sudan, saying it would complicate the crisis and attract other regional countries to join in the fight.