UPDF on standby as Uganda South Sudan border is closed

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UPDF on standby as Uganda South Sudan border is closed

Vehicles stranded at Oraba border post in Koboko District after the closure of the border. Photo by Felix Warom Okello. 

By Risdel Kasasira

Posted  Wednesday, December 18  2013 at  00:00

Uganda yesterday temporarily closed its border with South Sudan and heightened troop presence as the fighting between rival forces in the South Sudan capital, Juba entered day two.

The army said it was on standby to avoid wrong characters who might want to take advantage of the situation to wreak havoc on the Ugandan side.

The UPDF 14th Division in Gulu District, under Col. Emmanuel Kanyesigye, and the 5th Division headquartered in Pader District, commanded by Brig. John Lorot, have been reinforced to monitor and do surveillance of the 435km borderline with S. Sudan.

The border is reportedly being patrolled by more than 2,000 soldeirs under the supervision of Col Kanyesigye.

The military, however, denied reports that a section of Ugandan Special Forces Group had been deployed in Juba to protect the embattled South Sudan President Salva Kiir, whose army is fighting soldiers loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar, who is said to be on the run.

“That’s rumour- mongering. But our border security has been heightened and we are on standby to look out for any wrong characters that may take advantage of the fragile situation in Juba to enter Uganda,” the army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said.

International Affairs minister Oryem Okello also denied claims that Uganda had sent troops to Juba, describing the current fighting that started on Sunday night as “internal matter for South Sudan to solve”.

“The right institution is the African Union Peace and Security Council. Uganda cannot enter unilaterally but we expect AU to get involve,” Mr Oryem said.

Political relations between South Sudan and Uganda are friendly and in 2011, when fighting broke out between Juba and Khartoum, President Kiir, along with six top generals, met President Museveni in Kampala, who assured them of Uganda’s support against Khartoum.

Embassy closed:
The intense fighting also forced Uganda to temporality close its embassy and ordered the staff to seek refuge at the UN base, the Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mr Fred Opolot, said yesterday.

“It’s increasingly becoming difficult to communicate with our staff, who have been told to seek sanctuary at the UN base. Those in the outskirts have been told to stay indoors,” he said.

He confirmed that a second Ugandan was killed yesterday but said they had not identified the deceased. However, sources identified him as Aloro, a driver with Civicon, a construction company in Juba.

Mr Opolot said government was weighing in on the option of evacuating its embassy staff to Kampala if the fighting continues.