Uganda has been plunged into the crisis in South Sudan by deploying the Uganda People’s Defence Forces for five months now but our mission remains unclear.
Government has switched justifications from rapid deployment to rescue and evacuate Ugandans trapped in the war to securing the government in Juba from rebel onslaught. What’s more, several other questions remain unanswered.
But UPDF’s entry has proved costly and that is why government should clearly articulate our short and long-term mission in South Sudan.
While Uganda’s intervention on the side of Juba was justified by President Museveni as having prevented genocide, it has also produced unintended consequences. Uganda’s entry into the war has strained formerly fraternal relations and produced revenge attacks against and killings of Ugandans in South Sudan.
The war has also forced an influx of thousands of refugees into northern Uganda with Adjumani District alone hosting up to 100,000 refugees.
This has stressed the districts’ medical and educational services. And in terms of trade, Uganda has dropped export earnings to South Sudan from Shs271 billion to a meagre Shs52.2 billion.
And more, Uganda Manufacturers Association says the on-going clashes forced down Uganda’s production for South Sudan downwards by 60 per cent.
From the statistics, the stabilisation of South Sudan is critical to Uganda’s economy and security but the presence of Uganda’s national army in South Sudan should be legal in relation to our statutes, Igad, AU and UN charters. That is why government must clearly produce the Status of Force Agreement to explain the deployment of the UPDF in South Sudan.
Ugandans have for five long months been left to guess who finances our forces in Sudan and how many have fallen at the war fronts. While government says Ugandan taxpayers are footing the bills, Juba says South Sudan is. As has been demanded by the House since January, Parliament’s Committee on Defence must produce the letter from South Sudan President Salva Kiir inviting the UPDF to deploy. This should answer some of the questions on our involvement in South Sudan.
The UPDF’s presence in South Sudan is mired in adverse publicity with the recent one being our army fending off UN accusation that Uganda is dropping cluster bombs in civilian locations.
Government must heed counsel from Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to withdraw the UPDF and support the deployment of a neutral force to help enforce peace in South Sudan.
A peaceful South Sudan is good for Uganda’s security and economic development. Government must declare Uganda’s stance on South Sudan.