The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Machar, Ex-Minister Warn Museveni

Photo: Julio Brathwaite/UN
Civilians displaced by fighting at a United Nations facility on the outskirts of Juba. Up to 13,000 civilians have sought refuge at UN compounds.

South Sudan's rebel former Vice President Dr Riek Machar and former minister Peter Adwok Nyaba, today rallied against President Museveni, after the Ugandan leader threatened to fight the rebels if they failed to cease fire.

Machar warned Museveni against interfering in the internal affairs of South Sudan as the conflict in the world's newest country raged on. However, in the same statement, Machar welcomed the regional leaders' call for cessation of hostilities but quickly warned that the involvement of Museveni in the conflict could escalate it.

"We call upon the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD] to restrain Uganda's government from fuelling the conflict by sending troops and war planes to support the government of Salva Kiir," the statement reads in part.

Machar's statement is a direct response to president Museveni's threat on Monday to crush the former vice president militarily, if he fails to meet the ceasefire deadline.

"If not stopped, the UPDF's aggression may compromise the IGAD attempt to remain instrumental and neutral in bringing an end to the crisis in South Sudan," the statement quoted by The Sudan Tribune, said.

For the last two weeks, the conflict is reported to have claimed more than 1,000 people including Ugandans. In a separate interview with the BBC, Machar revealed that his forces had recaptured Bor, capital of Jonglei state from government forces. He also named his delegation to the peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he would discuss a ceasefire.

He named Rebecca Nyandeng Garang, the widow of John Garang, founder of SPLM as head of his peace delegation. A Dinka, Mrs Garang, may help Machar dampen claims that his rebellion is primarily aligned to his Nuer ethnic group. Talks in South Sudan's troubled history have often been preceded by renewed fighting, to allow the belligerents to go to the negotiating table in a position of strength, according to the BBC.

On Monday, President Kiir ruled out any power-sharing arrangement with Machar to end the violence.

"These men have rebelled. If you want power, you don't rebel so that you are rewarded with power. You go through the process," he said.

What began as a power struggle between the two men has taken on overtones of an ethnic conflict. The Dinka, to which Kiir belongs, are pitted against the Nuer, Machar's tribe. Meanwhile, a former South Sudanese minister accused Museveni of acting in a manner that could worsen the fluid situation. The latest accusation comes in the wake of efforts by regional leaders to broker a peace deal.

The regional body, on Friday, held special discussions in Nairobi and resolved that both parties to the conflict immediately cease ongoing hostilities and embrace dialogue.

Mixed reactions

IGAD's involvement, some activists and politicians say, will not quickly bring to an end South Sudan's current conflict, citing what they called "double standards" from its leaders like Uganda's Yoweri Museveni.

"[Museveni treats the leaders of IGAD like his children. They did not question what he meant by 'his country's efforts in securing critical infrastructure and installations in the Republic of South Sudan'," said Peter Adwok Nyaba in response to resolutions from the Nairobi summit.

Nyaba, a former minister for higher education, was among the 11 senior South Sudanese politicians detained in connection with the alleged coup attempt in the country, before his release on Friday.

He further alleged that Uganda has nearly 3,000 troops and some war planes, now involved in the country's conflict, a claim Ugandan army officials dismissed.

"It was about time the civil society started to make noise although this will not stop the conflict as long as it is viewed in terms of Dinka-Nuer dichotomy," said the ex-minister.

The IGAD leaders, he added, have failed to secure the release of the detained SPLM politicians. But, in a recent interview with The Sudan Tribune, Army spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said Ugandan forces were only in South Sudan to rescue Ugandans trapped in the violence.

On Monday, the Ugandan Foreign Affairs ministry Spokesperson Fred Opolot told The Observer: "As long as Ugandans are threatened there [in South Sudan] and UPDF is allowed to get there, we are ready to go there."

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