Magwi, 22 July 2019; Authorities of South Sudan, Torit state have accused Uganda of harboring suspected South Sudanese rebels in the refugee settlement camps in Kiryandongo, Adjumani and Lamwo districts. This was revealed during last weekend meeting held between delegates from Torit state, South Sudan and Lamwo District, Uganda.
The allegation was fronted during an inter-border symposium between leaders from South Sudan and Uganda, held in Magwi County headquarters, Torit state, South Sudan. The meeting between the two delegation which happened last week on Friday was dominated by accusation mainly by the delegations from South Sudan. The meeting was purposely called to highlight potential security threats and challenges between the two countries.
Governor Tobiolo Alberio Oromo of Torit state who appeared visible angry has accused Uganda of harboring what he called rebels and bandits causing havoc in his state.
Governor Oromo alleged that intelligence information indicates that some suspected rebels and bandits have enjoyed free ride in Uganda and they have been harbored in the refugee settlements in Uganda from where they coordinate their activities before intensifying attacks in war wreckage South Sudan.
Tobiolo said one of the rebel leaders is who is mobilizing and funding youthful asylum seekers in Kampala and refugee settlements in Adjumani, Kiryandongo and Lamwo districts to fight against the South Sudan government. However, Governor Oromo fall short from revealing the identity of the said rebel leader recruiting youth from the camps to wage war against Juba.
Mr. Oromo could also not provide a specific time frame as to when the event of recruitment had happened.
Governor Tobiolo directly implicated some elements within the Uganda people's Defense Force/ UPDF for providing army uniforms to the rebels. "some of the purported refugees even get access to UPDF uniforms which they don and make incursions into South Sudan, where they lead attacks and later retreating to Uganda as refugees and asylum seekers" said governor Tobolio.
This is a serious allegation against UPDF, because for years what is very clear is UPDF and SPLA fought alongside and President Yoweri Museveni has played a pivotal role and has groomed Kiir's army and had purchased weaponry for SPLA, now rebranded as SSPDF to fight against opposition armed groups across the country.
Governor according to the source who attended the meeting, said Governor Tobilio has requested Ugandan authorities to liaise with the South Sudan government to apprehend the suspected rebels since their activities pose a security threat to both countries.
The Magwi County commissioner Bosco Ochola Oringa reported that the suspected rebels had recently embarked on repeated attacks in the villages of Mugali, Paracelle, Adodi, and Owiny Ki Bul and are believed to be part of armed criminals who are alleged to be waylaying and ambushing travelers along the Nimule to Juba highway.
However, the statements from both governor Tobolio and Magwi county commissioner Ochola are quite contrary to the army earlier statement which said the attackers of Juba-Nimule road are part of Malong's group, while other sources within the SSPDF said it was some element of Dinka in Nimule who established training camps in tributaries of River Aswa and Atapi their goal is to launch attack at the cantonment base of SPLA-IO in the area.
Oringa says the alleged repeated invasion by the groups has caused fear amongst residents adding that the development comprises the peace agreements signed between the warring South Sudan factions if it is left unattended to.
Meanwhile, Lamwo Resident District Commissioner James Nabinson Kidega, who headed the Ugandan delegation to the meeting said that Uganda would investigate the reports but expressed worry that it would be difficult to apprehend refugees and asylum seekers since they are shielded by international law.
However, Kidega pledged commitment towards continued intelligence information sharing and joint efforts to diplomatically resolve the cross-border impasse that could be of a security threat to both countries.
Kidega, further decried the illicit movement of small firearms, the persistent cross border livestock theft, illegal environmental degradation and logging at the borderlines and the alleged brutality and inhumane treatment of Ugandan citizens in South Sudan.
It is worth mentioning because there is no fighting going on in Eastern Equatoria state, as the cease fire and peace agreement between the government and armed opposition groups is still holding water, so it is not clear which rebel group is fighting and recruiting.