By STEPHEN KAFEERO in Kampala
February 18, 2014 [Kampala] — Uganda will withdraw its troops from South Sudan starting April to pave the way for the deployment of an African peace keeping force, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kuteesa announced Tuesday.
The armed forces will be replaced by the yet to be formed African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) troops.
“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 last month,” Mr Kuteesa said.
“As soon as the ACIRC force comes on board, the first contingent of Ugandan forces will return home. I expect this to be in the shortest period of time, which is two months,” said Mr Kuteesa.
The announcement comes just days after the US, Ethiopia and Khartoum called on Uganda to withdraw its troops from the world’s youngest nation.
Speaking to journalists at the ministry’s headquarters in Kampala Tuesday, Mr Kuteesa said the AU Peace and Security committee was expected to meet soon to work out modalities for deployment of ACIRC in South Sudan.
“We believe that the deployment of ACIRC is the most logical way to withdraw from South Sudan, without leaving a security vacuum that can be taken advantage of…” he said.
Countries that have offered to contribute troops to ACIRC include Uganda, Algeria, Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, South Africa, Sudan, and Tanzania.
Mr Kuteesa, however, dismissed claims that Uganda was forced to withdraw from South Sudan by its development partners.
“We have not been under any pressure to leave South Sudan, but as a regional player, it is prudent that Uganda gives the ACIRC measure a chance.”
“If we had not intervened, genocide was in pipeline like what we saw in Rwanda in 1994 as the international community looked on,” Mr Kuteesa said.
The Presence of UPDF troops in South Sudan has been a prickly factor in the region and threatens to derail the Igad led peace negotiations in Addis Ababa.
While Washington said last week that UPDF must leave South Sudan to allow citizens there enjoy a future of peace and prosperity they voted for, Khartoum and Ethiopia warned that the UPDF presence in the country was threatening the whole East African countries, and demanded it pulls out its forces.
Uganda deployed its troops to fight alongside President Salva Kiir forces in December, 2013.