OPM dismiss allegations of harboring South Sudan rebels in refugee settlements

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FILE PHOTO: Refugees at a Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda

Kampala, Uganda – An official from the office of the Prime Minister has denied allegations by South Sudan Security personnel that they are hosting suspected South Sudan rebels in refugee settlement centers in Uganda.

South Sudan security officials allege that some suspected criminals disguised as refugees are being harbored in refugee settlements in Kiryandongo, Lamwo and Adjumani Districts.

The allegation was made last Friday during an inter-border meeting between Ugandan leaders and their South Sudan counterparts in Magwi County headquarters, South Sudan.

Julius Kamuza, the Palabek Refugee Settlement Commandant in Lamwo District told URN in an interview on Thursday morning that the allegations are false and baseless.

Read: Uganda accused of harboring rebels in refugee camps

He says the refugees who cross into the country especially through Lamwo district are scrutinized and upon being accepted into the settlement centers are treated as refugees irrespective of where they have come from.

According to Kamuza, the checks and verification are conducted by a team of Police, army, Humanitarian aid agencies working in the refugee settlements and OPM.

Kamuza notes that in case any of the refugee who crosses into the district has been in the armed force in South Sudan, he or she is free to declare it and is given a consent form to sign after which they are treated as refugees but not rebels.

“This constant allegation and blames that we are hosting rebels is not right. We accept the refugees because they are fleeing from their countries over several issues. We don’t have grounds for hosting rebels from South Sudan in our settlements,” says Kamuza.

During last Friday’s meeting, South Sudan army’s 7th Division commander in Torit State, Brig Gen Khulang Jarif Chuol requested Ugandan authorities to allow their operatives to pursue alleged criminals hiding in Uganda refugee camps.

But Kamuza says the request will not be accepted because the records available are only for refugees and not rebels.

On Wednesday the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Betty Aol Ocan reiterated her earlier call for tight security within the refugee settlements in the country citing the continuous allegations by South Sudan security personnel.

Gerald Menya, the Acting Commissioner in-charge of Refugees in Office of the Prime Minister declined to comment on the allegations by South Sudan army officials saying his office only deals with issues of civilian refugees but not ex-combatants.

Lamwo District currently host 48,039 South Sudan refugees who fled from civil unrest in the neighboring Torit State.

(URN)

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