Kampala — Uganda says it will withdraw troops from South Sudan as soon as an African emergency force is ready to take over.
Uganda's army, the UPDF, was deployed in Juba in December last year after fighting erupted between soldiers loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar and government troops.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa says the UPDF will be pulled out of South Sudan gradually once the African emergency force ACIRC is put in place.
Addressing the media in Kampala yesterday, he said the deployment of ACIRC in South Sudan will facilitate Uganda's progressive withdrawal.
"Uganda has no desire to keep her troops on South Sudan soil longer than it is necessary. It is in that context that Uganda has proposed, and the government of South Sudan agrees, on the deployment of ACIRC, consistent with the decision of the AU in January" he told reporters.
According to Kuteesa, the African Union's Peace and Security Council has been notified and is expected to meet soon to work out modalities for deployment of the force.
He said deployment of ACIRC is the most logical way to withdraw from South Sudan, without leaving a security vacuum that that can be taken advantage of.
If approved by the African Union Peace and Security Council, the emergency force will take on the task of securing government installations in South Sudan, a role which the UPDF has fulfilled during its two-month stay in South Sudan.
Kuteesa noted that the ACIRC will take two months to put in place a force which would rapidly respond to crises as and when they erupt on the continent.
He described it as a transitional mechanism pending the creation of the African Standby Force.
The US recently asked Uganda to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the warring parties in South Sudan and withdraw its forces from the battlefield.