Is South Sudan for Sale? Here Comes the UPDF of Uganda

By Jean C.B. [name withheld]

January 13, 2014 (SSNA) — The government of Uganda under pres. Museveni has decided to interfere with the internal affairs of the Republic of South Sudan. Various members of the Museveni regime have given different reasons as to their presence in South Sudan. Initially it was reported that the UPDF was there to evacuate its trapped citizens. Later on the UPDF decided to provide further support to Pres. Kiir. This support included financial aid and military support to the government of South Sudan. The UPDF has contended that their reasons for engagement are to “secure key infrastructures”. One wonders whether the indiscriminate bombing of villages in Jonglei by Museveni forces meet this criteria. Perhaps this explains Uganda’s government rather ill-advised “peace enforcement” comment. Not “keepers” but “enforcers”. This is a direct admission of military engagement in a sovereign country.

The government of Uganda has also claimed that their economics interests in South Sudan are at risk. This reasoning seems plausible on the surface. After all Uganda annually exports goods valued at an average of 250 million dollars to south Sudan. In fact Uganda is the number one trading partner of South Sudan. More than 70 per cent of the trade is in agricultural produce. The formerly marginalized northern part of Uganda has significantly benefited from this trade. And Uganda managed to relatively weather the 2008 financial crisis thanks to the available markets in South Sudan. It would therefore be true that any insecurity in South Sudan would have negative economic effects on Uganda. A case in point is the near zero growth rate in GDP per capita recorded in Uganda for the fourth quarter of 2011.This was during the oil shutdown crisis in South Sudan. However, trade and economic interests do not justify the invasion of a sovereign state. Economics alone is not a sufficient reason for invading another country. Markets are generally unforgiving. And human nature/fallacy is part of the elements that shape markets outcome. In any case trade is mutually beneficial and one cannot militarily force their will on a trading partner. It’s the willingness from the trading partners that make trade desirable. This desire to trade reduces transaction costs and makes trade relatively efficient.

Furthermore, under the UN charter, Uganda has no constitutional right to invade a sovereign state in the name of “economic Interests”. And Pres. Kiir, under the constitution of the Republic of South Sudan has no constitution right to invite another country to take part in South Sudan’s internal political conflicts. The president has a mandate in case of external aggression but no such mandate in case of internal conflicts.And Kiir’s violation of the constitution does not justifies Uganda’s interference.

Another argument that has been put forth concerns the issue of Security and the imminent threat of the LRA. Uganda has the right to protect its territorial integrity but it does not have the right to pre-emptively invade another country. Uganda is currently protecting the presidential palace in Juba and securing the Juba international Airport; these acts constitute an “invasion”. Uganda is not protecting the people of South Sudan, it’s protecting the balance of power in the country By providing military personal to protect such installations; Uganda has free the resources that could have been used locally for such purposes.

As such, Uganda has engaged in direct military actions against the citizens of the Republic of South Sudan. UPDF forces through their aerial bombardment have killed civilians in South Sudan. UPDF must then be seen as a participant in the war and by extension the people of Uganda are participant in the war.

And here lies the unintended long term consequences of UPDF engagement in South Sudan. Will the people of the Greater Upper Nile allow Ugandans traders to do business in their region? Note that a majority of oil fields in South Sudan are located within the Greater Upper Nile, a region that is predominantly occupied by the Nuer people. And the Nuer people currently support Riek Machar. And I suspect that in the near future the people of Greater Upper Nile region will in some form use the Ugandans traders as a proxy to UPDF forces. And if Uganda’s traders cannot operate in the Nuer area, then this would mean a loss of revenue to Uganda. The government of South Sudan might guarantee some form of protection to all foreigners in the country; however, enforcement of such policies are very unlikely. There are no well-established institutions in South Sudan to uphold the constitution. These will leave Uganda’s traders vulnerable to any aggression from the people of the Greater Upper Nile.

Furthermore, issues related to UPDF’s exit strategy, Finances and possible deployment of more troops into South Sudan must be raised. If there is no cessation of hostilities and the war continue until one party succumbs, how long is UPDF prepared to stay in South Sudan? And since as time goes on and more and more people learns about their relatives getting killed in cold blood due to their tribal affiliation, its likely that more people will join the war. And civil war might break out.  Uganda will be forced to provide further assistance to Pres. Kiir, this is going to leave Uganda vulnerable to possible attacks from LRA or any other internal threat/rebellion. Will Uganda manage to fight in two war fronts? 

And since under the Uganda’s constitution any military undertaking- under section 39 ACT- of UPDF must be approved by the parliaments; and the representatives of the people of Uganda have not yet endorsed such undertakings, are the people of Uganda ready to finance UPDF intervention in South Sudan? The logical conclusion seems to be that South Sudan will finance the presence of UPDF. This is obvious from Gen. Wamala’s statements regarding a “Status of Force Agreement”. This means that UPDF will not be leaving South Sudan anytime soon, thus increasing the possibility of UPDF members committing crimes. These crimes might range from petty ones (thefts) to serious violation such as rape, manslaughter and murder. How are these issues to be resolved? And will Ugandans act kindly to the execution of their fellow countrymen in South Sudan? And how then will South Sudan uphold its constitution in such situations?

The UPDF has put a stumbling block to the peaceful negotiation in Addis Ababa. The presence of Uganda’s military personel has unnecessarily strengthened Pres. kiir’s hand in negotiations. It has allowed the government troops to have access to resources they won’t otherwise have and has bolstered their confidence in the talks. The unforeseen consequence is that the failure of the talks plays against Uganda’s economic interests. The fact that Pres. Kiir’s forces are not in a position to militarily defeat Machar’s forces should be of great concern to any third party. As failure of any agreement would mean that Machar will resort to guerrilla tactics. And Uganda will be force to further support and engage in the imminent civil war. And if South Sudan’s plunge into a civil war, then mr. Odong’s claims on protection of civilians from genocide does not hold much water. Protecting the presidential palace in juba is not protecting civilians and neither is indiscriminate bombardment of villages near Bor by UPDF. Uganda must seriously weigh the long term consequences of its military engagement in South Sudan. Any hope of ending the current crisis in South Sudan lies in Addis Ababa. A political solution is required not a military solution.

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