Uganda and South Sudanese rebels blame meeting failure on poor communications

July 22, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Senior officials of Ugandan government and South Sudanese opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) have blamed the recent aborted mission to Kampala of the rebels delegation on poor coordination and communications.

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An unidentified man sits in the gun turret while leading a convoy of armoured vehicles from both the South Sudanese government forces and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), in the streets of Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan, Jan. 19, 2014. (Photo AP/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)

South Sudanese rebels who travelled to Uganda pleading for Kampala to pull troops out of the war-torn nation left without meeting officials, the Ugandan foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

President Museveni in mid-December sent thousands of troops to South Sudan with dozens of tanks and helicopter gunships to fight alongside the government army.

The rebels have been since demanding the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops.

On Sunday the SPLM-in-Opposition announced that their delegation was going to Kampala on Tuesday, but instead arrived on Monday a day earlier.

A senior official of the ministry of foreign affairs in Uganda said they were surprised by the arrival of the delegation.

“They never communicated they were coming, they just arrived,” Ugandan foreign minister Henry Okello Oryem told AFP, who said the team had arrived on Monday and then left.

“That is not the way we do things here, if a foreign delegation is visiting, they communicate.”

Oryem said Uganda was not bothered to talk to the rebels, adding it was in the interest of the rebels to talk to his government.

“It does not bother us. It is in their interest to talk to us, not us,” he added.

The remarks by the foreign minister contradicted the claims by the rebels that it was president Museveni who had been asking for a meeting with the leadership of the rebel group.

However, Mabior Garang de Mabior, who chairs the rebel national committee for information and public relations on Tuesday said it was important to engage the Ugandan leadership which he described as a party to the internal war in South Sudan.

“Uganda is a warring party in the conflict, so it is important to include them in the mediation efforts,” Mabior said, confirming the delegation had since returned to Ethiopia on Monday.

Mabior who is also a member of the composed delegation to Kampala confirmed poor communication as the cause for the failed mission.

“There was a mix-up in communication, it is not the end,” he said, implying that the rebels may try again to travel back to Kampala.

Earlier, rebels said Kampala was aware of the whole process and that its embassy in Ethiopia was involved in the travel arrangements to Uganda.

The process, they said, was also facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which mediates the peace process between government and the rebel group.

Analysts however downplay the seriousness of a one-day gap of communication, saying Ugandan government should have positively remedied the situation if they were serious about the meeting instead of avoiding the delegation which was already in their capital.