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UPDF deploys in Juba to evacuate Ugandans

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir bows to the national flags of Uganda and South Sudan during his inspection of a parade at State House Entebbe in 2011.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir bows to the national flags of Uganda and South Sudan during his inspection of a parade at State House Entebbe in 2011. Ugandan soldiers have landed in South Sudan’s capital Juba. PHOTO BY PPU 

By Risdel Kasasira

Posted  Friday, December 20  2013 at  19:00

In Summary

The army says a limited number of soldiers are in South Sudan to evacuate Ugandans caught up in the crisis and not to stop advancing pro-Machar troops.

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Kampala

Uganda has sent soldiers to Juba to evacuate Ugandans trapped in South Sudan following the week-long fighting between the government army and mutineers loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar.

Military sources said the government sent soldiers from the elite presidential guard with fighter planes. The sources said the Ugandan soldiers first secured Juba Airport before starting the evacuations.

“Uganda has deployed troops in Juba to facilitate the evacuation mission of stranded Ugandans and Kenyans, most of who are injured,” UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, told the Saturday Monitor. He said the deployment of UPDF soldiers at Juba Airport was authorised by the South Sudan government.

However, he denied that the soldiers had been deployed to stop advancing mutinying forces loyal to Machar. “The mission is simple. We are there to facilitate the evacuation process,” he insisted.

Evacuation
The plane carrying the first batch of the evacuated Ugandans and other nationals from South Sudan was expected to land at Entebbe Airport by 2pm on Friday with about 150 people.
Several countries and international agencies have started evacuating their citizens and staff from South Sudan as the fighting threatened to slip into a full scale civil war.
About 5,000 foreign nationals have been evacuated by road from South Sudan since the fighting broke out last Sunday.

Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told the Saturday Monitor that 3,434 Ugandans, 922 Kenyans, 328 South Sudanese and 21 people from different countries were evacuated by road between Tuesday and Wednesday. They crossed into Uganda through the Eregu-Nimule border. By Thursday evening, at least 700 people had been reported killed in the fighting.

Obama calls for end to fighting

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama called for an immediate end to the fighting in South Sudan, warning the country stands at the “precipice” of civil war. Obama, who earlier announced he had deployed 45 troops to the violence-wracked country on Wednesday to protect US personnel and interests, warned that “recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past”.

The growing violence has prompted fears that the world’s youngest nation could slide toward civil war. “Fighting to settle political scores or to destabilise the government must stop immediately. Inflammatory rhetoric and targeted violence must cease,” the president added in his statement. “All sides must listen to the wise counsel of their neighbours, commit to dialogue and take immediate steps to urge calm and support reconciliation.

On Tuesday, the United States ordered all non-emergency embassy staff to leave South Sudan and stressed that the onus to end the violence was on the country’s leaders. The US mission in the capital Juba also has suspended normal operations for the time being.

In an example of the danger facing foreign troops in the volatile country, three Indian peacekeepers were killed Thursday in an attack by ethnic Nuer youths on a United Nations base in Jonglei state. Other casualties are feared.

djeanne@ug.nationmedia.com