Ugandan troops withdraw from South Sudan’s Jonglei state

From The Sudan Tribune


October 20, 2015 (BOR) – South Sudanese military leadership has announced that all foreign troops of the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) will complete their withdrawal from Bor, Jonglei state’s capital, by Friday.

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An unidentified man sits in the gun turret while leading a convoy of armoured vehicles from both the South Sudanese government forces and the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in the streets of Jonglei capital Bor on 19 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)

Thousands of the UPDF troops have been stationed in Bor to protect the state capital, its surroundings, and citizens from the threats of the armed opposition fighters led by former vice president, Riek Machar, who took control of the town from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) in January 2014 until the Ugandan troops came in to dislodge them from the area.

A cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January 2014 by South Sudanese warring parties called for the UPDF withdrawal, but the provision was resisted by Juba and Kampala and could not be implemented.

However, a final peace agreement signed between President Salva Kiir and his rival, Machar, in August, brokered by the East African regional bloc, IGAD, and international partners, demanded the full withdrawal of the Ugandan forces from South Sudan’s soil.

Ugandan government last week announced its troops had started to withdraw from South Sudan in implementation of the peace agreement.

The withdrawal was supposed to complete by 10 October, but it has run behind the schedule for unknown reasons, with some government officials including the army spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer, claiming that the foreign troops will not withdraw until a security arrangement implementation document is signed by the rival parties in Addis Ababa.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday by phone from his barrack, SPLA commander for Jonglei state’s operation, General Malual Ayom, however confirmed that the Ugandan troops had started to withdraw from Jonglei state on Tuesday and that all their forces will complete the pull out on Friday.

The army general, Ayom, assured the citizens of maximum protection by the SPLA, saying people should not panic because UPDF is leaving the country.

“There shouldn’t be any panic to the population of Jonglei state, the SPLA is there to protect people of Bor. They should continue with their normal activities,” assured Ayom.

General Ayom said it would take three days for the withdrawal to complete, explaining that UPDF had stationed a huge force of thousands in Jonglei state which needed a phased pull out. The 2,000 troops stationed in Bor had started their withdrawal from Tuesday.

“That was a big force, this huge number, they cannot leave immediately. It has to move in phases, the first force has left and the second may go tomorrow [Wednesday], and by Friday, both of them should have left,” he confirmed.

He said for the first time in two years, the flag of the Ugandan authorities which was erected in Bor in January 2014 was now lowered and the SPLA flag was erected in its place at the barracks previously occupied by the Ugandan troops.

“We had the farewell party this morning; the flag of Uganda troops in Bor was lowered, musicians from Uganda and South Sudan attended the farewell party, we slaughtered a white bull for their farewell party,” he added.

UPDF GIVEN GIFTS

General Ayom further narrated that some gifts were given to the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, for sending his troops to South Sudan to protect the citizens of South Sudan.

He also said a rare white bull and a hyper were given to the Ugandan army signifying their commitment in Jonglei state.

“You know white cow was not [usually] given. We give it in three occasions in the history of Jonglei, when we are marrying as part of the dowry, and we gave it to president Jaffer Nimeiri of Sudan when he commissioned the current Jonglei as Jonglei province in 1976. This is the third time we give it as symbol to the president of Uganda in appreciation for keeping peace in South Sudan,” the General continued.

UPDF will also withdraw from Juba, the national capital, and parts of Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states. However, Ugandan forces currently stationed in Western Equatoria state may continue to stay as part of a separate arrangement under the African Union to hunt the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

(ST)

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