By Moses Walubiri
MINISTER of defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga has revealed that Uganda didn’t expect its mission in South Sudan to be protracted the way it has turned out to be, promising UPDF’s withdrawal “the moment a regional force effectively takes over from us (UPDF).”
In December last year, Uganda hurriedly sent its army to war torn South Sudan at the request of its Government as Africa’s youngest country tittered on the brink of a civil war and ethnic cleansing.
However, with former vice president-turned rebel chief, Dr. Riek Machar far from agreeing a peace deal with his nemesis, South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Uganda has got bogged down in the war torn country as regional efforts under IGAD pick steam to deploy Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.
In his response earlier today to queries by legislators on the Defense and Internal Affairs committee why financing of the South Sudan mission has not been explicitly provided for under the current financial year budget, Kiyonga said Government expected the mission to be brief.
“During preparation of the current budget it was anticipated that the troops would have returned home by start of this financial year.
However, withdrawal of troops has to be synchronized with IGAD deployment plans which are still ongoing,” Kiyonga noted.
The minister said that South Sudan has accepted to foot the bill for fuel, thus relieving Uganda of some financial pressure.
However, opposition MPs Ssemujju Nganda challenged Kiyonga’s claim that Uganda spent sh25b between January and March 2014 on operation costs in South Sudan saying is higher than government is willing to reveal.
The warring parties in the South Sudan conflict have failed to meet a deadline to form a unity government, despite threats by international community to charge key actors in the conflict with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
According to United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the South Sudan conflict has spawned one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years, uprooting close to a million people in the oil rich country.