Uganda snubs South Sudan rebels

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iol pic afr SOUTHSUDAN-UNREST-_0512_11 Reuters South Sudan's rebel leader, Riek Machar, addresses a news conference in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Picture: Tiksa Negeri

Kampala -

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

Ugandan troops are in South Sudan backing government forces, and their withdrawal is a key demand of the rebels.

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

More than seven months of war has left thousands dead and displaced 1.5 million people, and aid agencies are warning of famine if fighting continues.

Fighting broke out mid-December between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, rebel leader Riek Machar.

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

But he said the rebels were not treating the failed talks as a snub.

“There was a mixup in communication, it is not the end,” Garang said.

Rebel chief Machar has in the past accused Ugandan fighter jets of trying to bomb him.

Stalled peace talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the regional East African IGAD-bloc, of which Ugandan is a key member.

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

Rebel forces on Sunday launched their largest offensive since an oft-broken May truce, attacking their former headquarters in Nasir. Both government and rebels insist they control the small town. - Sapa-AFP



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