Ugandan military spokesman Richard Karemire told The Associated Press that Ugandan forces entered under “a bilateral understanding” to protect a team of engineers fixing the Kaya-Yei road.
He said Uganda enters on a case-by-case basis without seeking U.N Security Council permission and that South Sudan’s government is aware of their presence.
But South Sudan deputy army spokesman Santo Domic Chol denied any knowledge of Ugandan troops in the country recovering from a five-year civil war that has killed nearly 400,000 people. Uganda has openly provided support for South Sudan’s government.
It was not clear how many Ugandan troops entered South Sudan. Six cars with Ugandan soldiers in uniform were seen Wednesday at the Yei River bridge, an aid worker in Yei town said. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation.
The troops have since left.
Alan Boswell, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, has noted signs of an “imminent” government offensive in Central Equatoria against groups that remain outside the peace deal signed in September by the warring sides led by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
On Monday the National Salvation Front, which did not sign the deal, accused South Sudan’s government of attacking its forces in multiple clashes outside Yei over the weekend.
“They want the peace to be negotiated and resolved on their terms,” spokesman Suba Samuel Manase told the AP.
This month the cease-fire monitoring body charged with overseeing the peace deal’s implementation was barred entry to parts of Central Equatoria by the government’s national security arm, according to an internal report by the group seen by the AP.
The peace deal has been rife with delays, missed deadlines, continued fighting and denials of access for badly needed humanitarian aid.
Civilians continue to suffer amid the fighting.
Sitting on the floor in the military hospital in the capital, Juba, Manwan Wol held his son’s head in his lap as the 8-year-old writhed in pain.
He said his son was hit in the head with the butt of a gun when armed men attacked his village in Central Equatoria this month.
“Tribes are attacking other tribes and beating each other,” Wol said. “The way I see it, there’s no peace.”