Friday, April 20, 2012

Uganda Threatens to Intervene In South Sudan

April 20, 2012, 9:25 a.m. ET
Uganda Threatens to Intervene for South Sudan

Wall Street Journal

KAMPALA, Uganda—Uganda has threatened to intervene if Sudan invades South Sudan, the head of Uganda's army said, as a conflict over an oil-rich border area threatens to escalate into a wider regional war.

Uganda was a strong ally of South Sudan throughout its 20-year battle for independence, and shares a border with the newly independent nation. It has also long accused Sudan of backing the Lord's Resistance Army, a renegade group led by Joseph Kony that staged a 20-year insurgency in northern Uganda before fleeing the region in 2005.

"We will be involved, having suffered a proxy war by Khartoum," Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said at a meeting of senior regional military officials in Kampala.

Gen. Aronda's comments came after Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir threatened to invade the capital of South Sudan, Juba, and topple its government. Armies of the two countries are now engaged on at least three fronts, including the disputed oil hub of Heglig, which was captured by South Sudan last week. Heavy casualties have been reported on both sides.

Gen. Aronda also urged Kenya and Ethiopia, both of which also share borders with South Sudan, to state their position on the fighting there.

There was no immediate reaction from Sudan.

Last month, a Sudanese presidential advisor warned that Sudan was "running out of patience" with Uganda over its support for Rebels of Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, who operate in Sudan's border state of South Kordofan.

Uganda dismissed these accusations.

Military analysts say that the involvement of Uganda could tilt the war in South Sudan's favor because Uganda has a robust air force. Last year, Uganda acquired eight Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, which it could deploy to prop up South Sudan, according to Ugandan intelligence.

"With an air force, South Sudan will be adequately equipped to deal with Sudan's aggression," said a Joram Ruranga, a military analyst in Kampala.

Analysts believe that the conflict will keep escalating as long as South Sudan holds on to Heglig.

South Sudan on Friday said it would "immediately" withdraw from Heglig, following widespread international condemnation of its occupation of the 60,000-barrels-a-day oil field. In response, Sudan said that such a move wouldn't end the conflict.

"It is unclear who would win a full-scale war, as the balance of forces remains murky," said Boston University Prof. Michael Woldemariam, whose studies focus on international security and African politics. "This uncertainty greatly increases the prospect of full-scale war, since both sides have reason to believe that they can succeed."

—Solomon Moore in Juba contributed to this article.
Write to Nicholas Bariyo at

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