President Museveni has appointed Col Kayanja Muhanga as the overall commander of UPDF operations in South Sudan, sources told the Daily Monitor
Col Muhanga has been the Military police boss and is now tasked with a sensitive role that involves diplomacy, politics and military command.
The UPDF and defence spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, confirmed the appointment, saying Col Muhanga is capable of balancing military command and diplomacy.
“He is an accomplished commander. He commanded successful battles in Somalia and Northern Uganda,” said Col Ankunda.
UPDF soldiers are controlling Juba airport and other key government installations.
Units of Special Forces and other specialised units are in the theatre and might soon start offensive operations against the rebels. There are reports that UPDF elements backed SPLA soldiers to regain control of Bentiu on Friday, defeating forces loyal to Riek Machar.
Col Muhanga was the commander of Uganda Battle Group Eight in Somalia that captured al Shabaab’s stronghold of Bakara Market, Mogadishu Stadium, Daynile, Mogadishu University and Afgooye in 2011.
President Museveni deployed some UPDF units, days after the war broke out in South Sudan in December to evacuate the stranded Ugandans.
But the army has now widened the scope of operations to peacekeeping and enforcement, which involves offensive operations against the rebels.
Critics have been questioning why Uganda has taken a partisan position to support President Salvar Kiir and fight Machar in the conflict but Col Ankunda said they have to work with “a legitimate government”, not the rebels.
Col Ankunda told the Daily Monitor that Uganda is about to sign the Status of Force Agreement (SFA), which will see UPDF operations officially defined.
“They have written to us officially and SFA will be signed soon with the government of South Sudan and if the Window is open, we might be involved in peace enforcement,” he said.
President Museveni has written to the Speaker of Parliament to retrospectively approve the deployment of Ugandan troops in S. Sudan following accusations that the President deployed the soldiers without parliamentary approval.
President Museveni said in his letter that Uganda cannot and should not “stand aloof” and watch the situation in the South Sudan deteriorate.
Before the war broke out, Ugandan forces had been operating in Nzara, in the Western Equotaria state, since 2009, where the UPDF has its headquarters for operations against LRA.