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JUBA - 30 Dec 2014

Uganda sends forces to help Salva Kiir 'defeat Machar'

President Yoweri Museveni has sent Ugandan forces to South Sudan and put them under the command of President Salva Kiir in order to help defeat Riek Machar if he does not respond to a mediation initiative by South Sudan's African neighbours.

It was reported already yesterday that Ugandan warplanes provided air support to SPLA forces loyal to President Salva Kiir after a group of Nuer fighters chased the SPLA out of Mathiang, a village north of the fiercely contested capital of Jonglei, Bor.

“We sent some forces. They are under the orders of President Salva Kiir, to see how we can help restore order. It is solidarity. That is all,” said Museveni. He did not clarify whether they were ground forces or air forces.

The Ugandan president was speaking to press in Juba on Monday morning. He added, “We gave Riek Machar some four days to respond, and if he doesn’t we shall have to go for him, all of us.  That’s what we agreed in Nairobi.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by “to go for him,” Museveni responded briefly: “To defeat him.”

“I want to congratulate General Salva for defeating these fellows in the town here,” he said referring to the battle within the presidential guards 15-17 December in Juba. “And I hear they’re in the provinces trying to make trouble. But they will be defeated if they don’t come for peace.”

The African neighbors of South Sudan under the umbrella of the regional body IGAD, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, claim to be brokering peace negotiations between President Salva Kiir and his rival former vice-president Riek Machar.

Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta is tasked with communicating with Machar, according to the Ugandan leader, who indicated that his own government has no contact with the other side in the conflict. He said Kenyatta would tell them whether the South Sudanese opposition leader had responded or not.

Museveni explained his motivation for his staunch support for President Kiir in the dispute: “The African Union banned all military coups. So when we heard some people wanted to make a coup, which is against the African Union position, and because also we had a lot of Ugandans here, we sent some forces.

The president said he remains 'neutral’ in the conflict. The international community including US, UN and EU have supported the peace talks by IGAD so far.

Photo: President Salva Kiir of South Sudan (right), President Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya (left) and Prime Minsiter Hailemarian Desalegne of Ethiopia (center) in Juba on Thursday, 26 December (Government of Kenya)