Uganda, which recently agreed to withdraw a section of its army from South Sudan under pressure from the United States and Igad, is lining up troops for dispatch to the troubled Central African Republic.
A security official said President Yoweri’s Museveni’s government is only awaiting a no-objection from at least two Western powers to deploy troops to join efforts to stop the war.
Separately, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs State Minister Henry Okello Oryem told The EastAfrican that the African Union is looking to Uganda to intervene in CAR under the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) mechanism.
The AU is yet to form its own ACIRC but Uganda is one of very few countries on the continent whose armies have rapid response units that can deploy rapidly in conflict hotspots.
“There is a call by the AU that people in Central African Republic are killing each other; the French [troops] are there, but they are not enough. I was challenged that Uganda is in South Sudan and Somalia. Why hasn’t it gone to Central African Republic?” Mr Okello Oryem said.
It is understood that a number of African countries are ready to support Uganda’s foray into CAR, while others will contribute troops to fight alongside the UPDF.
The EastAfrican has learnt that, once given the green light, the CAR-bound contingent of UPDF will get aircraft from Algeria while South Africa will provide funding and other military hardware and logistical equipment.
It will operate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. This is considered more robust than Chapter VI, which usually guides peacekeeping operations, because it authorises military operations against any breach of peace.
Ten other countries from Central, West and Southern Africa will contribute troops. Security analysts in Kampala say it is not a coincidence that other East African states are not part of this project at a time when Igad leaders are growing uncomfortable with Uganda’s intervention in every conflict situation.
However, Rwanda on January 16 deployed a battalion of 850 peacekeepers following a request by the African Union.
Kigali aimed to bolster the International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, MISCA, which the UN Security Council established in December 2013 to support CAR’s stabilisation.
Rwanda quickly responded after warnings from the United Nations and France in November that CAR was sliding into a genocide as reprisal attacks on civilians by Seleka Muslim fighters and Christian militias, known as anti-balaka, escalated the violence.
The planned deployment, coming at a time when Uganda is being told to reduce its Amisom troops, could potentially help to absorb highly skilled, combat ready soldiers returning from the peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Uganda has some 7,000 troops in Somalia, and some 4,500 in South Sudan. The number of UPDF troops under the AU’s regional task force pursuing the Lord’s Resistance Army in CAR, South Sudan and DRC is unspecified but is believed to be close to 3,000.
The implication of all these deployments on the army’s overall strength is not clear but its strain on the budget and other sectors is.
According to the Daily Monitor, the Cabinet has approved an Ush120 billion ($48.3 million) supplementary budget to fund the operation in South Sudan.
The Finance Ministry has already sent out a call to at least three other ministries to review their expenditure for the last quarter of the financial year to free up money for the operation.
This fundraiser is in spite of last week’s revelation by Kuol Manyang Juuk, South Sudan’s Defence Minister, that his country was funding the entire operations of its own army as well as of the UPDF.
According to the security officials, Kampala has been considering deployment in CAR for over a year, after being approached by the former government of François Bozize in December 2012. There have been muted discussions at the top and in the army leadership to this effect.
Separately, Mr Oryem confirmed that the overthrow of Bozize in March last year scuttled the plans for Uganda’s intervention. Kampala has now renewed its plan to send in troops to stop the escalating violence, provided that the United States and France sanction the deployment of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces.
“The former defence minister of the Central African Republic was here on December 31, 2012. I took him to meet the president, who agreed that UPDF can deploy in Central African Republic provided there is no objection from Obama and France,” said Mr Okello Oryem.