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Facebook post misleadingly shares old images of Ugandan troops in South Sudan

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Amid uncertainties surrounding South Sudan’s first-ever general elections slated for December 2024 and a surge in intercommunal conflict that has left hundreds of civilians dead, posts claiming to show Ugandan troops arriving in the capital of Juba have been shared dozens of times on Facebook. The claim is misleading; the images are old and show the Ugandan army entering South Sudan in 2016 to evacuate its citizens trapped by fighting in the main city.

On March 17, 2024, a Facebook post shared two images claiming they showed Ugandan troops entering Juba.

“Finally Ugandan forces arrived in South Sudan capital Juba. Ethnicization of our military forces has resulted into such contracting foreign forces to come to South Sudan (sic),” it reads.

<span>A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on March 21, 2024 </span>

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on March 21, 2024

The post has been shared more than 50 times and was published by an account whose owner describes himself as a journalist and the founder of the news site The Juba Mirror.

Political tension

The composition of South Sudan’s army has been a contentious battle for years between President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice President Riek Machar – who belong to the two largest ethnic communities in the country.

In 2022, a long-overdue graduation ceremony (archived here) to unify forces loyal to Kiir and Machar was held to meet a key condition of the 2018 peace deal that ended the brutal five-year conflict in which nearly 400,000 people died.

When the civil war erupted in December 2013, Uganda sent troops to South Sudan in support of Kiir. About two years into the bloody conflict Uganda began pulling out its army in line with the peace deal (archived here).

While the world’s youngest nation has been formally at peace since 2018, localised violence between rival communities flares up frequently and the political space remains fragile.

Now, after years of postponements, the nation is set to hold its first-ever election in December 2024 (archived here).

While Uganda has been an ally during political tensions in South Sudan, the post claiming to show Ugandan troops entering Juba is misleading.

2016 images

A reverse image search revealed the two pictures emanate from news articles published here and here back in 2016 (archived here and here). The reports described how the Ugandan army was preparing to evacuate its civilians stranded by fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and Machar.

The first image used in the misleading post is a cropped AFP picture.

“Uganda military personnel are seen atop military and police trucks as they drive towards Juba in South Sudan at Nimule border point on July 14, 2016,” AFP’s caption reads.

<span>A screenshot of the AFP photo as shown in AFP's archives</span>

A screenshot of the AFP photo as shown in AFP’s archives

The second image is a thumbnail from a video embedded in a 2016 Al Jazeera report (archived here).

<span>A screenshot of the Al Jazeera report, taken on March 22, 2024</span>

A screenshot of the Al Jazeera report, taken on March 22, 2024

‘Pure lie’

AFP correspondents in South Sudan confirmed there was currently no visible presence of Ugandan troops in Juba.

South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) spokesman Major General Lul Ruai Koang also dismissed the claims, saying they were “lies”.

“The statement that has been circulating on social media was finally dismissed by the deputy spokesperson of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) saying they have not deployed here in the Republic of South Sudan. That’s a pure lie,” Koang told AFP.

According to local reports, UPDF spokesman Lt. Col Deo Akiiki also denied the claims (archived here).

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