By Moses Mulondo, Mary Karugaba and Joyce Namutebi
A section of Ugandan opposition MPs have urged rebels loyal to former South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar not to harass Ugandans in areas they control.
Addressing journalists at Parliament, shadow minister for defence Kaps Fungaroo and public accounts committee vice chairperson Paul Mwiru said they have received reports that Ugandans still trapped in the areas controlled by the rebels are being harassed.
He appealed to Machar to protect Ugandans and refrain from “punishing them for mistakes they have not made”. “Machar and his colleagues should be fair and desist from punishing Ugandans in their areas of control,” Fungaroo said.
He said they plan to write to Machar’s group through Parliament and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to help Ugandans back home.
Mwiru urged Machar and his colleagues to understand that the decision to deploy UPDF in South Sudan was taken by President Yoweri Museveni.
Mwiru said although the UPDF Act gives the President powers to deploy troops outside the country in emergency situations and report back to Parliament within 21 days, the mandatory days have already elapsed yet the President has not yet briefed Parliament.
Parliament is on recess until February 18. The Government argues that UPDF was deployed to facilitate evacuation of Ugandans and other foreigners from South Sudan.
The Government insists that UPDF is not involved in the fighting and that it was deployed there at the request of the President of South Sudan. So far 23,099 Ugandans and foreign nationals have been evacuated from South Sudan, according to UPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda.
“So far 1,299 have been air lifted by UPDF and 21,800 other Ugandans and foreign nationals have been evacuated by road,” Ankunda told New Vision. “Our forces are not anywhere outside of Juba.
We are not yet involved in combat operations outside Juba,” he said. He revealed that British foreign secretary William Hague recently also appealed to President Museveni to help in securing the airport so that the international community can safely continue to fly to Juba.