KAMPALA - Fighting is likely to continue in South Sudan without the deployment of an east African regional force to pressure both sides to respect a ceasefire, Uganda's army chief said Tuesday.
Uganda already has troops in South Sudan fighting alongside government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir against rebel leader Riek Machar, but the country's army chief said a larger regional force was needed to halt the five-month-old civil war.
"Is the ceasefire holding? It would need an IGAD intervention force to be in place," General Katumba Wamala told a briefing at the army headquarters.
"If IGAD forces are not deployed to compel the two parties to respect the ceasefire, there is a possibility of the clashes happening again," he added.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a regional bloc that has been brokering peace talks between South Sudan's government and rebels, but two ceasefire deals -- one signed in January and the other earlier this month -- were quickly violated.
IGAD leaders have called for the deployment of a force to protect ceasefire monitors, but no date has yet been set for putting such a force in place.
General Wamala said that when an IGAD force is deployed and "there is no vacuum, we shall pull back to our borders" -- but did not rule out taking part in an IGAD mission.
South Sudan's government has been at war with rebel groups since December 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to Machar, who was sacked as vice president, escalated into full-scale fighting.
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Uganda calls for deployment of regional force in S.Sudan