Kampala, Uganda – Authorities of South Sudan have accused Uganda of harbouring suspected South Sudanese rebels in the refugee settlements camps in Kiryandongo, Adjumani and Lamwo districts.
The allegation was fronted during an inter-border symposium between Ugandan leaders and their South Sudan counterparts in Magwi County headquarters, South Sudan on Friday. The meeting was purposely called to highlight potential security threats and challenges between the two countries.
The Governor of Torit State, Eastern Equatorial Province Alberio Tobiolo Oromo alleges that intelligence information indicates that some suspected rebels are harboured in the refugee settlement in Uganda from where they coordinate their activities before intensifying attacks in South Sudan.
Tobiolo said one of the rebel leaders is who is mobilizing and funding youthful asylum seekers in Kampala and in refugee settlements in Adjumani, Kiryandongo and Lamwo districts to rebel against the South Sudan government.
The accusation follows an incident in which some South Sudan nationals disguised as asylum seekers who were returning home from Uganda to attend a traditional marriage ceremony in South Sudan but later laid an attack setting ablaze the immigration post and an Ebola scrutiny checkpoint at Owiny Ki Bul in South Sudan.
Tobiolo says that 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 back to Uganda as refugees and asylum seekers.
He 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 Mugale, Paracelle, Adodi and Owiny Ki Bul and are believed to be part of armed criminals who are alleged to be waylaying and ambushing travellers along the Nimule to Juba highway.
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.
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.
But 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, however, 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.
The symposium recommended strengthening cross border security mechanisms, severe surveillance and constant law enforcement as ways of mitigating some challenges.