KAMPALA (Reuters) - South Sudanese rebels who want to mend ties with Uganda and press for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from South Sudan left Kampala without meeting the president, blaming miscommunication between the two sides, a rebel official said on Tuesday.
Ugandan Junior Foreign Minister Okello Oryem said a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni was scheduled for Tuesday. But he said the rebels had not shared their travel plans and left hours after arriving on Monday when nobody met them at the airport.
The rebel camp has been angered by Uganda’s deployment of troops to South Sudan in support of the government of President Salva Kiir against insurgent forces led by his sacked deputy Riek Machar.
Tuesday’s meeting would have been the first official talks between the rebels and Museveni, a long-time ally of Kiir, since the conflict erupted in mid-December.
Western powers and some regional states have said Uganda’s presence complicates peace talks, which have rumbled on for months with little progress. Sparked by political rivalry, the conflict has re-opened deep ethnic divisions in South Sudan.
“What happened was just logistical miscommunication, an issue of coordination,” Miyong Kuon, spokesman for rebel leader Machar, told Reuters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where the peace talks have been held.
“It will be resolved as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the team would “definitely go back” when dates were fixed.
The rebel camp said on Monday the aim was to patch up ties and discuss a withdrawal of Ugandan troops. Uganda said no one would “dictate” when its soldiers quit South Sudan.
The Ugandan minister blamed the rebels for not providing details of their travel plans to the Uganda authorities.
“It’s not the job of the Ugandan government to be looking at who is arriving at Entebbe every one minute. It’s your responsibility that when you’re travelling to a country you inform your host that you are coming,” he said.
Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Edmund Blair, Editing by Angus MacSwan