The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is seeking for a status of Force Agreement with the troubled South Sudan government.
The Chief of Defence Forces Gen Katumba Wamala while appearing before the Defence Committee of Parliament yesterday explained that this agreement will help the UPDF easily operate in South Sudan.
The agreement stipulates that if a soldier of the UPDF in South Sudan commits a crime, he should not be subjected to the laws of that country.
The UPDF deployed its soldiers on Christmas Eve to provide support to President Salva Kiir’s government which was engulfed in a conflict that started on December 14. The Kiir government claimed that soldiers loyal to former deputy President Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July last year, wanted to take over government by force of arms.
On queries of whether the UPDF shall be able to return bodies of dead Ugandans, Gen. Katumba said this will not be possible until the situation has been normalized. However, the UPDF was able to evacuate 130 Ugandans from Malakal to Juba using a C-130 aircraft.
The CDF had appeared before the defence committee chaired by Benny Namugwanya, the woman MP for Mubende. Together with the state Minister for Defence Gen. Jeje Odong, they were to explain the situation in South Sudan, its effect on Uganda’s own security and the level of preparedness in forestalling any possible threats to Uganda’s security.
General Odong told the committee that President Yoweri Museveni in accordance with the Defence Forces Act consulted with the High Command before deploying a re-enforced company to Juba. This was to protect the airport and other vital strategic installations so as to enable the evacuation of Ugandans and other nationals.
But according to Odong, Uganda’s involvement was on four national interests, which include political, economic, security interests and fraternal relations. Politically, Odong explained that it is incumbent upon Uganda as a member of the African Union whose constitutive Act prohibits unconstitutional change of government which Uganda should avoid.
On why the government acted without seeking Parliamentary approval, the minister stated that the President wrote to the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on the 24th of December 2013. However, it was not until yesterday that the Speaker’s office said they had received the president’s letter. Parliament is now scheduled to sit on Tuesday next week to discuss the UPDF deployment in South Sudan.