Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), a rebel group in South Sudan have dismissed claims that a renowned Lira street preacher, Jorom Opio, has been recruiting Ugandan youth for them.
The rebels’ deputy military spokesperson, Col. Paul Gabriel Lam says the SPLA IO does not know or have anyone called Jorom Opio in its ranks or file.
“Besides the SPLA IO does not recruit foreigners nor does it operate abroad. The South Sudanese who joined the SPLA IO do so voluntarily to bring about reforms to South Sudan under the leadership of Dr Riek Machar. This requires personal sacrifice,” reads of part of the statement issued by Col. Lam on Wednesday.
The statement comes a day after the UPDF 4th Division commander, Brig Emmanuel Kanyesigye told Daily Monitor that the pastor was arrested a fortnight ago from his home in Lira Town during a joint operation by the UPDF 4th Division intelligence unit and the Police Flying Squad on allegations of recruiting Ugandan youth into the SPLM-IO.
“The SPLA IO strongly refutes the accusation made by the UPDF 4th Division Commander, Brig. Emmanuel Kanyesigye linking a Ugandan pastor Jorom Opio to the people’s movement (SPLM/A IO)……Furthermore, Brig. Kanyesigye in his accusation continued alleging that the so called Pastor Jorom Opio represented the SPLA IO last year in the peace talks that resulted to the signed cessation of hostilities (COH) on 21/12/2017. This is completely false. The government of Uganda, being a member of the IGAD, knows exactly who represented the SPLM/A IO in the HLRF since it started on 18/12/2017,” adds Col. Lam.
According to him, the SPLA IO holds the Ugandan government with high esteem “for not only hosting and protecting millions of South Sudanese refugees who fled the country due to the current conflict but also for tirelessly working hard to bring peace to South Sudan through the HLRF. Thus, the SPLA IO has nothing to do with the aforementioned pastor.”
Currently, the rebel group is fighting to overthrow President Salva Kiir’s government.
The conflict has displaced more than 1.2 million people who are living in refugee settlement centres of Palabek- Kal, Palabek-Gem and Palabek Ogili, all in Lamwo District.