Uganda May Redeploy Troops in South Sudan for Regional Force

  • Accepting force in country’s interests, foreign minister says
  • Kutesa says nation’s leaders not implementing pact, need help

Uganda is willing to redeploy troops in South Sudan as part of a regional force, after recent clashes in the oil-producing nation killed hundreds of people and raised the prospect of a return to all-out civil war, Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said.

Accepting such a force would be in South Sudan’s interests as letting the country try to implement a peace deal on its own has proven untenable, Kutesa said Friday in an interview in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where he’s attending an African Union summit.

Forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, “are not implementing what they agreed,” Kutesa said. “To think that we can abandon them and they do it on their own is unworkable.”

South Sudan has been ruled by a transitional government since April, after Kiir and ex-rebel leader Machar agreed to work together to end the civil war that began in December 2013 and left tens of thousands of people dead. The conflict has cut oil production in the country, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves, by at least a third to as little as 120,000 barrels per day.

Tip of Iceberg

Renewed fighting that erupted in Juba July 7 and continued sporadically until Monday has claimed at least 270 more lives, although the United Nations says that government toll may be the “tip of the iceberg.” An uneasy cease-fire has held in the city for the past three days. The UN mission in Juba is protecting about 33,000 people who fled the violence, while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for it to be given further support to allow better protection of civilians.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African bloc that mediated the peace agreement, on Monday said it’s demanding a revision of the UN mission’s mandate to allow for the establishment of an intervention force and increase the number of troops from the region. South Sudan’s ambassador to Kenya said his government opposes any deployment of regional forces to help stabilize the country.

Uganda sent troops to support Kiir’s government shortly after the war began in 2013 and said it withdrew the contingent, numbering as many as 3,000 troops, by November 2015. Some soldiers have returned to South Sudan this week to help evacuate about 5,000 Ugandan nationals, Kutesa said.

Machar’s fighters have been forced from Juba and are scattered around the nearby areas of Jebel and the Yei Road, while Kiir’s troops have set up defensive positions on a major thoroughfare, according to the UN. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has said further clashes can’t be ruled out.

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