KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda’s top military official said the country would back its newly-independent northern neighbor South Sudan if it went to war with Sudan, a newspaper quoted him as saying on Friday.
Escalating violence since South Sudan separated from the rest of Sudan last July under the terms of a 2005 peace deal has raised fears a war may break out between the two long-time foes.
Last week, South Sudan seized Heglig, a disputed oilfield, claiming it as its rightful territory and saying it would only withdraw if the United Nations deployed a neutral force there.
“We will not sit by and do nothing. We will be involved having suffered a proxy war by Khartoum,” the Daily Monitor quoted General Aronda Nyakairima, Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), as saying.
The Daily Monitor said Nyakairima made the remarks at a meeting of regional military chiefs in the capital Kampala on Wednesday night.
Felix Kulayigye, the Ugandan army spokesman, confirmed Nyakairima made the remarks reported in the Daily Monitor.
“Our people in northern Uganda suffered and intelligence information also indicates that the LRA, who have an estimated 200 guns, are again in contact with Khartoum,” Nyakairima said.
He was referring to Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group notorious for their penchant for grisly violence including hacking limbs off victims and use of young boys and girls as fighters and sex slaves.
Uganda has accused the Khartoum government in the past of supporting the group, which now roams a remote jungle straddling Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The LRA waged a war against the government in northern Uganda for nearly 20 years before it was ejected in 2005.
An African Union (AU) backed 5000-strong force has been launched to hunt down Kony, whose notoriety has gained worldwide attention after a video about him made by a U.S. charity was posted on YouTube and viewed by tens of millions of people.
On Thursday, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir vowed to teach South Sudan a “final lesson by force” after it occupied the disputed oil field.
Editing by David Clarke