It is now formal; the UPDF has been hired since December 23, 2013 to defend and protect President Salva Kiir and his government! Therefore, UPDF is in every sense a mercenary outfit in South Sudan.
President Museveni and his ministers have been making a political grandstanding over the deployment of Uganda’s military to South Sudan. They said it was in Uganda’s national interest!
They highlighted the national interests as including the safe repatriation of Ugandans; protecting Ugandan expatriates; and ensuring Uganda’s national security (deny Kony possibility of using South Sudan to attack Uganda).
It soon became clear that this was not all the UPDF was doing. Mr Museveni himself, in complete contradiction of his Defence Minister and UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, revealed that UPDF was fighting alongside the South Sudan ‘government’ forces in operations against the breakaway SPLA forces.
This created many complications. First, it directly endangered Ugandans that were in areas under the ‘rebel’ SPLA. In fact, it has been reported that Ugandans had to claim that they were Kenyans in order to reduce the hostility against them.
Secondly, it complicated the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) initiatives to find a political solution. An important IGAD member and South Sudan neighbour (Uganda) had now become a part of the warring parties; compromising the role of IGAD as a mediator of the conflict.
Thirdly, it opened a pandora’s box in regionalising the South Sudan conflict. Uganda’s regional enemies would be motivated to intervene on the opposite side; cascading into a wide regional war like happened in DR Congo.
For Ugandans, the additional worry was the cost of the war. Again the Ugandan leaders blatantly lied to the country. They said Uganda was meeting the cost and laboured to explain why the country should pay.
Then on Friday, February 14, the South Sudanese defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk cleared the air. He said: “It is the government of South Sudan footing the bill of the operation which started officially on December 23, last year when a fierce fighting broke out in Juba and entered to other towns.”
“We are funding all the activities of UPDF and SPLA in our territory,” he further revealed.
This means our soldiers are hired by South Sudan government to serve their interests. If the national army was in Sudan to serve our national interests, there would be no basis for the South Sudan government to pay them.
It is so sad that our children are dying as hired mercenaries!
This also means Uganda may once again find herself in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for damages that will be occasioned by the activities of the UPDF. Uganda was found culpable by ICJ for the invasion and plunder of DR Congo.
The spokesperson of the ‘rebel’ SPLA has said “It is an obvious revelation that Salva Kiir’s government has already spent hundreds of millions of US dollars of the public money to finance the foreign Ugandan army in order to interfere in the internal matter and carry out a genocidal mission against a section of the citizens of South Sudan.”
Arising out of the above, Mr Museveni and his government should do the following immediately:
- Bring home our troops.
- Pay adequate compensation for our soldiers who died as mercenaries.
- Apologise to IGAD and the people of South Sudan for the reckless interference in internal affairs of South Sudan.
In the meantime, opposition Members of Parliament should demand a formal inquiry into the whole venture of UPDF deployment to South Sudan.
Dr Besigye is former FDC president and political activist