April 20, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan welcomed the announcement made by the chief of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), Aronda Nyakairima, on Friday that his military will intervene if the fighting between Juba and Khartoum escalates into a full-scale war.
- Ugandan troops (BBC)
This announcement comes on the same day as Juba announced it will complete withdrawal of its troops from the conflict zone of Heglig within three days.. Sudan says that it was not a withdrawal but that they managed to kick out South Sudan’s forces.
“I think you know that Uganda is our next door neighbour and has a right to express her concern if the current aggression by Sudan continues to the extent that it becomes a regional issue”, minister of information and media, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said on Friday.
“A Kenya[n] national was killed in recent indiscriminate aerial bombardment on civilian settlements in Bentiu. He was among those who were killed because the bomb did not segregate. This makes it a regional concern because it is not targeting military positions”, explained Marial.
Atem Garang, the chief of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, said in an interview with Sudan Tribune that Uganda has a right to show concern about the conflict as South Sudan is home to many Ugandans and as a member of the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Uganda helped to facilitate the now precarious peace agreement which ended Sudan’s civil war in 2005.
Nyakairima said intelligence suggests that Khartoum was “again making contacts” with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) militia, whom he said, have moved towards Sudan carrying 200 small arms.
The LRA has been a regional scourge since the 1980s. Originally a north Ugandan rebellion, it has now morphed into an quasi-religious militia carrying out indiscriminate killings, abductions and rape.
The US sent troops to Uganda in October 2011 to assist in the capture of LRA head, Joseph Kony; also the subject of an international advocacy campaign – Kony 2012.
Nyakairima presented a paper in Kampala, analysing the role of African militaries in regional stability to a group of military generals and other security experts from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. He suggested that the militaries of Great Lakes nations are being mobilised in preparation for all-out conflict between Juba and Khartoum.
There are security reports saying the LRA, who were previously hiding in the forests of Obo, Central African Republic, have moved to the north of the country near the Sudanese border, sparking fears that the Ugandan rebels could be returning to the conflict.
South Sudan is Uganda’s biggest export trading partner and if the conflict escalates, the country is likely to lose billions of dollars and have to accommodate thousands of refugees.
Nyakairima called for an urgent IGAD meeting to discuss the fighting that is taking place along the shared border around the oil town of Heglig, which South Sudanese troops captured last week.
The two-day security meeting was organised by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) and International Development Association (IDA).
At the meeting UPDF spokesperson Felix Kulayigye, said: “I don’t want to speculate but as a member of IGAD, we shall not sit and watch the Comprehensive Peace Agreement being reversed.”