Ugandan army has started leaving South Sudan’s Jonglei State following a withdraw announcement.
Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, confirms UPDF convoys leaving South Sudan yesterday.
“Withdrawal in progress…,” Ankunda said in a social media message.
The withdrawal of the Ugandan troops is required under the terms of South Sudan’s recent peace agreement.
A first convoy was seen leaving Bor last week.
Earlier reports suggested that the Ugandan force in Jonglei was about the size of a battalion.
Allan Mugume, UDPF information personnel says the soldiers are excited to be leaving as they have spent a lot without seeing their families back in Uganda.
A Ugandan soldier who preferred anonymity told a South Sudan radio, Tamazuj that they were not paid their allowances.
“We have really done a very big job to President Salva Kiir and the entire people of South Sudan but they are not appreciating us for that,” the soldier told the radio.
He said they were expecting Kiir’s government to have provided them with allowances on top of their salaries but they did not get anything.
“But I don’t know maybe they have been giving our commanders some money and that money was used to buy food for us, I don’t know!” he stressed.
By December 2013, it emerged that was using Shs7bn per month in South Sudan operations.
The budget of UPDF operations in South Sudan which Ministry of Defence had been kept as a Classified Item was brought to the Members of Parliament in the committee by Defense Minister, Gen. Jeje Odongo, and Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala.
Yet the deal said South Sudan had agreed to provide Petrol, Oil and Lubricants listed on documents as ‘POL’ to the vehicles and aircrafts of the visiting UPDF forces.
UPDF claimed to be spending on food, porridge, drinks, insect repellents, medical services and ammunition and intelligence gathering.
At the same time, soldiers said they were getting normal salaries without any special allowance although they had been promised allowances.
The defence committee chairperson, Benny Namugwanya, said that during their visit to South Sudan, UPDF officers begged them come back and talk to their commanders to give them some allowances.
“In our three days there, many UPDF officers told us to help them by talking to their seniors to channel some allowances to them. They said salaries are being deposited on their accounts in Uganda but they need some money given that they are on the battlefield,” Namugwanya told press.
In July 2014, the South Sudanese Ambassador to Uganda, Samuel Luate Lominsuk, confirmed his country was footing the fuel and oil costs of UPDF.
This came after MPs learnt that UPDF has already spent Shs22bn in only three months in South Sudan operations.
Luate said UPDF was only catering for the salaries of soldiers while the South Sudan government handled the rest of the fees.
The East African in June 2014 quoted Central bank sources saying the domestic borrowing ceiling had been raised by Shs 675bn from Shs 1.04tn to allow the government to plug holes in its revenues and provide for the growing costs of the army’s activities in the region.
The Ministry of Defence also asked parliament to approve a supplementary budget of Shs170bn “for regional security,” part of which was meant to support the deployment of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces in South Sudan.
With the war cost being shouldered by South Sudan, the huge budget UPDF asked for could not even pay soldiers’ allowances as it is suspected their allowances were “pocketed” by commanders.
Ankunda is yet to clarify on this new allegation.
Meanwhile, the army spokesperson what other excuses warring parties will come up with for failing to implement a peace agreement.
“Now that UPDF is withdrawing from South Sudan, what other excuse will someone have not to implement the Peace Agreement?” Ankunda pointed out.
According to South Sudan’s new peace agreement, which Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed as guarantor, the deadline for completion of UPDF withdrawal from Jonglei was 10 October, but the Ugandan government announced the beginning of the withdrawal only after that date.