UPDF reacts to being suspended from South Sudan

The Ugandan government has vowed to “protest” the decision of the chairman of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) to block Ugandan military officers from serving the body in South Sudan.

The mandate of the CTSAMM is to monitor and verify compliance by the warring parties and armed groups to the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September, 2018.

The body funded by IGAD relies on Monitoring and Verification Teams (MVTs) located in 12 of the most conflict affected areas of South Sudan to conduct patrols and gather information on potential violations of the agreement which they immediately report to the CTSAMM Headquarters.

This can include reports of military fighting, movement of forces, blockage of aid routes, forced recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on civilians, as well as the dissemination of hostile propaganda and other activities prohibited by the agreement.

The body’s headquarters then compiles reports based on this information and submits them to the IGAD Council of Ministers and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for further action.

On Monday news reached us desk that CTSAMVM on March 20, 2019, wrote to the Ugandan Embassy in South Sudan’s capital Juba, informing Uganda that her new batch of army officers would not be welcomed.

“This letter is to inform you that there is an urgent need to reduce overall expenses within CTSAMVM, which constrains our ability to pay, accommodate, feed and transport CTSAMVM members, and/or sustain the necessary operational speed at the current personnel strength level,” said the body’s chairman, Maj Gen Desta Abiche Ageno.

“As a result of these funding challenges, CTSAMVM has notified our IGAD countries of the decision to suspend accepting replacements for those members repatriating through the end of June 2019.”

Officials said the letter caught Uganda by surprise considering the country is a guarantor of the South Sudan peace agreement.

The letter from Ageno means no more Ugandan military officials will be allowed in South Sudan for this initiative beyond June 2019 after the first batch has returned home.

Ageno’s decision is set to meet stiff resistance from Uganda considering other regional stakeholders were not consulted on the matter.

When UPDF spokesperson Brig Karemire was contacted about the issue he had this to say

“the chairman of the mechanism may be overstepping his mandate.”

Karemire said “IGAD Chiefs of Defence Staff should be briefed and consulted for their input before such a decision to downsize the team is undertaken.”

Asked to shed more light on what Ageno’s letter means for Uganda, Karemire responded: “According to that circular, officers rotating out are not to be replaced.”

He also emphasised Uganda would “protest the move definitely.”

In his letter, Ageno, an Ethiopian General, said the “sector concept would be suspended and resources reallocated.

He further attached a roster reflecting personnel assignments with “effective assignments dates”.

The decision has since attracted mixed reactions from South Sudan government.

Some officials told ChimpReports(Uganda’s tabloid) that denying Ugandan military officers an opportunity to participate in the verification mechanism would contradict their role as a guarantor of the peace effort.

“The country remains fragile because fighting continues in South Sudan. The only way to achieve peace is for everybody to lay down their weapons and embrace the peace process which can be achieved by a strong verification team,” said a South Sudanese official who preferred anonymity to speak freely.