Kampala, Uganda | AFP |
Uganda announced Friday it would not contribute troops to a regional brigade designed to bolster the UN mission in South Sudan, hours before a Security Council vote authorising the deployment.
A key ally of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Uganda’s government said it did not want to be seen as interfering in another nation’s affairs by joining the UN protection force due to be deployed in the capital, Juba.
On Friday, a US-drafted resolution is expected to be passed which would create a new contingent of 4,000 African troops — also possibly from Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia — which would report to the UN mission commander with a more aggressive mandate to provide security and deter attacks on UN bases.
“Not deploying in South Sudan was voluntary,” Ugandan foreign minister Henry Okello told AFP Friday.
“We choose for Uganda not to be part of the deployment so that (those) who accuse the UPDF (Ugandan army) of meddling in the internal affairs of South Sudan have no opportunity to accuse us,” he added.
The withdrawal of its pledge to send troops was aimed at bringing peace to South Sudan, Okello said, and Uganda would still provide logistical or communications support as required.
Around 110,000 people have fled to Uganda from South Sudan this year, most of them escaping fighting that erupted anew last month, according to the UN.
Juba was rocked by several days of clashes between Kiir’s government forces and those loyal to ex-rebel chief Riek Machar, the latest flareup in two and a half years of war.
After initially agreeing to the force during a summit of the East African bloc IGAD, South Sudan’s government on Wednesday said it now had reservations.
Diplomats said the UN Security Council vote was scheduled for 10:00 am (1400 GMT), but may be delayed to allow for more time for negotiations.
During meetings this week, the draft text was amended to limit the mandate of the regional force to an initial period of four months and to specify that it will have a “clear exit strategy.”
The proposed resolution threatens to impose an arms embargo if the government blocks deployment of the regional force.
The UN mission known as UNMISS has come under criticism for failing to protect civilians, with reports of women and girls allegedly being sexually assaulted near a UN compound in Juba.
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