10 February 2014

Ethiopia Warns of "Regional Conflict", Calls for Withdrawal of Foreign Troops From S.sudan

Photo: Samara Scott/U.S. Army Africa
East Africa member states criticise Uganda for sending its army to fight alongside S. Sudan forces (file photo).

Addis Ababa — Ethiopian government has issued a strong warning of a threat of a "regional conflict" in South Sudan unless the Ugandan troops withdraw from the area and avoid the trend.

There are concerns that the ongoing presence of Ugandan troops, pictured here in Jonglei capital Bor, could further escalate the crisis in South Sudan and lead to regional conflict (Getty)

officials in the past weeks expressed their frustration over Ugandan involvement in the inter South Sudanese conflict, However in his first direct statement against Ugandan role the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Monday called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from South Sudan.

"Because of this intervention, the conflict might end up as a regional conflict because there are other interests also from other sides," Desalegn said, emphasising "I hope for the cessation of hostilities..., Ugandan forces and all other external forces must withdraw from that area phase by phase".

Sudan and Kenya also called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from South Sudan saying it hampers IGAD efforts to settle the conflict. However, Juba said it has the sovereign right to demand "friends" to support its efforts to maintain political stability in the country.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition accused also the Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) of fighting them alongside the South Sudanese government forces.

The Sudanese media in Khartoum also reported that JEM rebels looted South Sudanese banks and stole vehicles and other private belongings, but did not mention their alleged fighting against the SPLM-In- Opposition rebels.

JEM spokesperson Gibril Bilal in a statement released on Monday denied the accusation, and reiterated that they have no any presence inside the South Sudanese territory.

The deadly violence in South Sudan erupted since mid-December when clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.

Ethiopia has a long tie with the people of South Sudan in which it supported and hosted the South Sudanese rebellion against Sudan in the 1970s through 1980s.

A chunk of its populations particularly in the Gambella region share cultures and languages with the neighbouring states of Upper Nile and Jonglei in South Sudan.

Ethiopia also has security and economic interests as well to safeguard and would not want to see the conflict flaring up and becoming more protracted at its borders through the interference of other regional countries such as Uganda.

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