Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF and South Sudan Army are trading accusations for alleged failure to respect each other’s territorial boundaries triggering clashes along the Uganda-South Sudan border.
On Tuesday last week, UPDF was involved in a heavy gunfire exchange with SSPDF soldiers at Atwila in Pangira sub county, about 1.5 kilometers inside Uganda from Ngomoromo border post in Lamwo district. Two South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces soldiers were gunned down while another was captured alive in the skirmishes by UPDF with three SMGs.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, Lt. Col Deo Akiiki, the Deputy UPDF spokesperson noted that about 36 South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces troops had established an illegal roadblock and an ambush several kilometres inside Uganda’s territorial boundary on unclear reasons.
According to Lt. Col Akiki, when the army received information from residents, UPDF troops moved from Ngomoromo to Ted Nagwe on a fact-finding mission but met resistance from the South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces soldiers who opened fire at them.
“While approaching the spot where the illegal roadblock was, one South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces soldier was spotted and the UPDF commander approached him for an explanation. While interacting with him, the rest came from the ambush and instantly opened fire towards the UPDF troops,” Lt Col Akiiki stated.
He however says UPDF soldiers subdued the South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces in a retaliatory fire killing two and capturing another with three guns (SMG). Lt Col Akiiki denied claims that UPDF registered any causality in the clashes.
However, in an earlier statement by Maj. Gen Lul Ruai Koang, the South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces spokesperson, he indicated two UPDF soldiers were killed in the clashes. Gen Koang also alleged that the UPDF made a major incursion into their territory with heavy artillery pieces and light military trucks mounted with 12.7mm machine guns and launched a cross border attack at their defensive border post at Pogee in Magwi county, Eastern Equatoria state.
“South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces squad heroically fought to protect the territorial integrity of our beloved country. However, that small force was outnumbered, outgunned and was temporarily forced to retreat. A hasty counterattack code-named “operation Restore Territorial Integrity of the Republic of South Sudan was launched to flush out the mechanized unit of UPDF” Gen Koang stated.
Lt Akiiki rubbished Gen Koang statements as false and maintained that the South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces intruded into Ugandan territory. “What happened is regrettable and can be avoided through mutual condemnation and decisive action against the remnant errant elements who on their own frolic made this incursion into Ugandan territory ostensibly for the unofficial and individual criminal ends of extorting and robbing the Ugandan public,” he said.
He notes that the continued incursions onto Ugandan territory by South Sudanese armed elements present a challenge not only to the border communities but to the brotherly relations between the two countries. Last week’s incident is the second violent encounter the UPDF has had with armed elements from South Sudan over the disputed international boundary following the deadly clashes in 2015 when more than 200 armed men from South Sudan invaded Ngomoromo village.