By Steven Candia
The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) of the Ugandan army, Gen. Katumba Wamala says the UPDF will remain in South Sudan till such a time when an enabling environment for talks has been created, despite the recent loss of nine of the Ugandan soldiers there.
(PHOTOGRAPHS SOURCE: The UPDF)
According to army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, nine UPDF soldiers were killed and a dozen others wounded following interventions in South Sudan.
The fallen soldiers include Capt. Celistine Egau from Kaberamaido, Sgt. Santos Ochen and privates Richard Oyaka and Arthur Mbagira. Most of the dead have already been buried.
‘They are just day dreaming," says Ankunda of claims by the South Sudan rebels and some Ugandan politicians that hundreds of UPDF soldiers had been killed.
Gen. Katumba Wamala said: “We supported the SPLA to get in, but apart from that, we were concerned about our nationals who were trapped there."
The general says the UPDF is only in the strategic town of Bor, which was recaptured from the South Sudan rebels only a few days ago. Here, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba (2nd-L), who is the Commander of the Special Forces Group, is seen mingling with Gen. Wamala (front-R) and other soldiers in Bor.
Ugandan troops deployed in South Sudan after fighting erupted last month between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy, Riek Machar, who he accuses of plotting a coup.
The fighting rapidly spread to the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, taking other twists, pitting the Dinka from which Kiir hails against the Nuer of Machar.
Gen. Katumba Wamala (far-L) said the UPDF's objective of going to South Sudan is to create an enabling environment for talks. "Our objective is that peace talks are fast-tracked and we will be there until that happens," he said.
He said, in a phone interview with New Vision, that UPDF soldiers in Bor are in high spirits, but the town has been left in ruins, following days of clashes for its control.
"Bor is quiet and liberated though in ruins. The whole town has been vandalised with bodies strewn all over and the stench of dead bodies hangs over the place," said the CDF.
He mentioned that Bor is not yet in a habitable state.
Last week, however, Uganda’s Parliament endorsed the decision to send troops to South Sudan, with the defence minister saying the army had helped avert “a genocide”.
Deadlocked ceasefire talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. Ankunda refuted claims by the rebels that a UPDF aircraft had carried out raids to eliminate some of its commanders.
Machar has consistently called for Uganda to withdraw its forces, saying it poses a threat to the on-going negotiations.