Uganda’s risky dive into murky waters to save drowning South Sudan

By Kalundi Serumaga.


                                 What remains is to see if Uganda the lifesaver will survive the desperation of the one it seeks to save. Illustration/John Nyagah  Nation Media Group

January 1, 2014 [The EastAfrican] — Any trained lifeguard will tell you that a major danger faced when saving a drowning person is the drowning person himself.

In their panic, they are likely to seize hold of their lifesaver so tightly that he also becomes unable to swim, and they both go down together.

One method of preventing this is to first stun the “drownee” with a hard blow to the head as soon as you are near, giving you time to drag them to safety.

Ugandan soldiers are or have been present, under one international authority or another — or sometimes none — in seven of the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa countries.

Over the past two decades, the survivability of the Kampala regime has become increasingly dependent on the extent to which it is prepared to be the West’s armed fireman in the region. For this, the West happily overlooks the regime’s spectacular human-rights and other failures.

With South Sudan, however, this role may bring us all to the end of the game, before the main players are ready for it.

First of all, the Juba drama can hardly be described as a rebellion, or even a civil war. This is a dispute that originates not from the general population or even from within the government of South Sudan, but within its ruling party, and its top structures at that.

With Uganda charging in, two crises of governance are now combined. And since Sudan’s troubles have featured in the fall of more than one Kampala dictatorship, and the sustaining of the longest two, we have cause to be concerned.

General Amin’s 1971 coup is rooted partly in his willingness as army commander a few years earlier to secretly facilitate US/Israeli support for the first anti-Khartoum Anyanya rebellion (1955-1972) through illegally recruiting Southern Sudan rebels into the Uganda Army so as to provide them with arms and training, as well as maintaining clandestine bases for them on the Uganda-Sudan border.

The Israeli interest was to tie Khartoum down in the South, thus making Sudan less useful to its northern Arab ally, Egypt which had tried to take the lead in fighting Israel.

Thus, when the Western powers were forced to take sides in the growing feuding between Amin and his boss president Milton Obote, they chose Amin and actively supported his coup, in which many anyanya participated and were to stay on and brutally help keep in power for a decade.

In 1985, it was a large consignment of weaponry intended for the recently formed SPLA, being air-dropped into Southern Sudan by the second Obote government, that was intercepted by his new generals (both called Okello), whose followers he had confined to the north of Uganda, and formed the arsenal they used to charge south and overthrow Obote for the second time.

In short, Uganda’s very long history in the struggles of what is now South Sudan, has not always led to good rewards.

Even now, one of the wry comments in Kampala is how after all those decades of support and the resultant damage, ordinary Ugandans trading there mainly get to sell chickens and manual labour, while other economies whose governments had kept the struggle at arm’s length are cashing in at high corporate level.

Black African Sudan’s wars against Khartoum really advanced as a series of mutinies within the Sudanese armed forces, which then became sustained armed rebellions.

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