Friday January 17 2014

Be honest on South Sudan deployment

It is said the first causalty of war is the truth. The ongoing crisis in South Sudan pitting government forces backing President Salva Kiir and fighters loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, and the deployment of Ugandan soldiers in the country, seems to fit the bill in many ways.

On Tuesday, while seeking Parliament’s approval of UPDF deployment in South Sudan, Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga told MPs: “We are in South Sudan to evacuate our citizens but also close any gaps that may endanger our security.” Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi justified the deployment saying “there was necessity to act the way we did because there was an imminent threat from an ungovernable South Sudan.” We agree.

Many MPs doubted with others describing the move as rushed and done without carrying out wide consultations given that the issue is of national importance. In the end, after raising pertinent questions and cautions, MPs endorsed the deployment. It looked like the matter had been put to rest.

Earlier, MPs including Odonga Otto, threw spanners in the works when he alleged that some UPDF soldiers had been killed fighting in South Sudan. His remarks attracted swift reaction from sections of Army leadership who termed the MP’s revelation as wishful thinking and lies.
Then on Wednesday, a day after Parliament okayed the deployment, President Museveni, at the conference on the Great Lakes Region in Luanda, Angola, said Ugandan soldiers had engaged fighters allied to Mr Machar. He said Ugandan soldiers were killed and others wounded when they engaged in a big battle 90km outside Juba.

So, between Mr Museveni, Dr Kiyonga, Mr Mbabazi, and Mr Otto, and the Defence spokesperson, who should Ugandans believe? Who is feeding the country on lies?

Given that the men and women, whose lives are put in harm’s way in the neighbouring country are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or relatives, the government should give an honest account of the deployment, who foots the bill, the time frame of deployment, and an exit strategy, etc.

As it is, the uncoordinated explanations have only left citizens more confused and vulnerable.