Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Uganda: Lawmakers Demand Answers About Troops in South Sudan

Members of Uganda's parliament are demanding answers from President Yoweri Museveni after deploying troops from the national army to South Sudan without seeking parliamentary authorization as enshrined in the constitution, according to parliamentarian Medard Sseggona.

On his recent visit to South Sudan as part of an effort to help resolve the security crisis there, Museveni said East African nations have warned South Sudan's former Vice President Riek Machar to comply with a cease-fire or face action by regional nations.

But Sseggona says it was inappropriate for Museveni to interfere in South Sudan's internal affairs, which he says could create tension and worsen the security situation there due to that country's ethnic complexities.

"The president threatened Riek Machar with pulling him out of the bush, which is not our political, economic or social interest to interfere with the internal affairs of the government of South Sudan," said Sseggona.

He says Museveni contravened the constitution by deploying troops from the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) to South Sudan without parliamentary approval.

"We are asking for an explanation as to how the government deployed our forces in South Sudan without consulting and obtaining a parliamentary resolution as required by article 210 of our constitution," said Sseggona. "We demand to know how many of our children have died in South Sudan [and] two how many of our soldiers have been deployed in South Sudan and for how long? Because it would appear we might be there forever."

But supporters of the government rejected the lawmakers' demands as a publicity stunt. They contend that President Museveni has the constitutional mandate to protect citizens irrespective of where they are, and has deployed the troops to evacuate Ugandans trapped in South Sudan due to the conflict there.

"We want the president to tell us how many people he has rescued from South Sudan," said Sseggona. "We've actually demanded that parliament be recalled to discuss this [South Sudan] crisis, because we are risking Ugandans by threatening to intervene or to interfere in an internal conflict."

Uganda foreign ministry spokesman Fred Opolot told VOA that the UPDF troops are in South Sudan to protect and evacuate citizens.

"Our major concern is to ensure that [our citizens] are safe, and if not they are evacuated so that process is ongoing," said Opolot. "Uganda People's Defense Forces [are] in Juba to secure the airport, in order to ensure that the evacuation process goes very smoothly."

Opolot denied reports that the government in Kampala sent UPDF troops to support South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in the ongoing conflict in Africa's newest nation.

But Sseggona says the legislators demands are legitimate and in accordance with the constitution.

"We must know in specific terms what are our interests; the political, economic and social interests," said Sseggona. "Apart from good neighborliness, apart from rescuing our sons and daughters who may be faced with death in South Sudan, we must know the broader and long term objective in South Sudan."

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