Sunday February 19 2017

Get serious about the South Sudan conflict

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Opposition leader Machar. Agency Photo 

By Editorial

Over the past six months, at least half a million South Sudanese fleeing insecurity in South Sudan have arrived in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda, joining the thousands of South Sudanese who had relocated to Uganda earlier.
On Saturday, this newspaper reported that a health training institution from Kajokeji town, Yei, South Sudan, had relocated to Arua District of Uganda with all its students. Religious institutions from the world’s youngest nation were expected to follow suit since their flock had moved to Uganda.
In South Sudan, many agree that efforts by former Botswana president Festus Gontebanye Mogae to see to the implementation of the peace agreement signed in 2015 between president Salva Kiir and his estranged former deputy, Riek Machar, are faltering. Mr Mogae was appointed by the Eastern African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), to carry out this assignment.
Whereas Mr Kiir insists that his government is implementing the peace agreement, Mr Machar remains exiled in South Africa and reports of simmering tensions, fighting and killings, laced with ethnic undertones which could border on genocide, abound.
But Igad, African Union and the United Nations may in the end not do enough to stabilise South Sudan.
So what is Uganda doing for itself? There is no coherent policy that Uganda has designed to deal with this serious threat to its security and stability. On whether the South Sudan situation is serious as far as Uganda is concerned, one does not have to take our word for it. Gen Katumba Wamala, the immediate former Chief of Defence Forces, said as much to this newspaper in the week he was relieved of his duties last month.
The hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese uprooted from their homes now compete with Ugandans, especially in West Nile for resources, a situation which is not helped by the prevailing drought situation. Clashes are inevitable even at community level.
It is, therefore, surprising that the South Sudan question has not been seriously discussed in Uganda’s policy fora, even in Parliament, and the government hasn’t outlined a policy to deal with it. All we have seen in the past is President Museveni intervening on his own initiative, for instance when he promptly deployed our soldiers within hours of fighting breaking out in South Sudan in 2013. Mr Museveni has been accused of backing Mr Kiir against Mr Machar, which some say has negatively affected Uganda’s ability to influence the outcome of the South Sudan conflict.
There is urgent need for Uganda to focus its policy on the real and present danger posed by South Sudan.

The issue: South Sudan.
Our view: There is urgent need for Uganda to focus its policy on the real and present danger posed by South Sudan.