South Sudan accuses Uganda of hiding rebels in refugee camps

Former South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Johnson Juma Okot (centre) flanked by UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Wilson Mbadi (second left), and other senior army officials, during a press briefing after holding a joint security meeting at Gulu 4th Division UPDF Barracks in November 2020. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • During the meeting at Moyo Multipurpose Hall in Moyo Town Council on January 25, South Sudan authorities estimate that about 4,000 rebels could be hiding in the refugee camps and called for quick action.

South Sudanese military and political authorities have accused their Ugandan counterparts of harbouring rebel remnants in refugee settlement camps in northern Uganda.

This was at a closed-door meeting between the delegations of South Sudanese officials led by the governor of the Central Equatorial State, Mr Emmanuel Anthony Adil, and that of Uganda led by Adjumani Resident District Commissioner, Mr Peter Taban Data.

The leaders discussed border issues that include trade and security.

During the meeting at Moyo Multipurpose Hall in Moyo Town Council on January 25, South Sudan authorities estimate that about 4,000 rebels could be hiding in the refugee camps and called for quick action.

Mr Adil complained of how some rebels opposed to the current Revitalised Agreement for National Salvation continue to recruit at the Uganda borders.

“I am calling upon all of us to assist and cooperate to put such action to an end. I believe that we are on a good track to reenergise our border relation and cooperation as agreed in the earlier meetings,” he said.

He tasked the Uganda government to flash out rebels from their territories if the sister countries are to continue enjoying a cordial relationship.

“We have registered new issues that require our collective responsibility, as we are implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan together with Uganda as our regional guarantor. We are here yet to boost our engagement and we seek their cooperation,” Mr Adili said.

Meanwhile, Mr Emmanuel Khemis, the Commissioner for Lainya County, said rebels were coordinated from within Uganda to attack South Sudan.

“I know them, at least two of them, they are hiding here in Koboko as refugees. I can even give you their names Mr RDC so that you help us because those two are dangerous people,” Mr Khemis said.

Mr Eresto Gale, the commissioner of Kajokeji County, appealed to the RDCs and the UPDF army commanders at the border points to strengthen the security operation and share information with South Sudan.

Mr Data said government is making efforts to identify rebels in the camps and repatriate them to ensure that security is guaranteed.

He also said they are committed to expediting the border demarcation to allow free movement.

“We have taken up strategies to build stronger relationships so that the people who move and engage in trade between the two countries are the legitimate and not disguised criminals,” Mr Data said.

Recently, the UPDF said Uganda was no longer a safe haven for criminals.

“It’s in our mandate to ensure the security of our borderline, our country among other interests in South Sudan. No such vices will be encouraged in Uganda,” the UPDF 4th Division spokesperson, Capt Hammad Hassan Kato, said.

He added: “Such rebels were the ones plotting attacks and killing people on Juba-Nimule highway and leaving them to hide inside Uganda compromises the diplomatic relations the two countries have been enjoying.”  

Earlier meeting

In November 2020, then South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Johnson Juma Okot, led a South Sudan military delegation to meet the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers headed by Gen Wilson Mbadi, UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, in Gulu City.

The meeting was meant to settle series of clashes between the two forces at their common borderlines, and derive a way forward for peaceful coexistence.

Gen Okot called for cooperation from Uganda’s intelligence structures in order to help the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) get rid of security threats paused by the fugitives that flee into Uganda and  plan to terrorise people in South Sudan.

The two sides then agreed and pledged to guarantee peace and cooperation at the borders as well as strengthen intelligence structures to counter suspected rebels in Uganda.

It was also agreed that the UPDF supports SSPDF in training and human resource development of its forces as well as guaranteeing the security and welfare of nationals of both countries once they cross into either countries.

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