Stop Hosting Rebels in Refugee Camps – South Sudan Tells Uganda

South Sudan has said it is in talks with authorities in Uganda over rebels living in refugee camps.

Multiple security and military sources said reports about rebel activities in refugee camps could jeopardize the relations between the two countries.

“We know them, name by name, the structure of their command and their activities. We brought it to the attention of the governor of Central Equatoria [State], the general command and the general headquarters [and] even up to the level of commander in chief. Everyone is aware”, a South Sudanese military officer told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

The officer, who preferred anonymity, said reports on rebel activities at the border prompted a closed-door meeting between Central Equatorial State governor, Emmanuel Anthony Adil and Uganda’s delegation headed by Adjumani Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Peter Taban Data.

The meeting took place at Moyo town council on January 25.

The two leaders discussed border issues, trade and security.

“We warned the governor of Central Equatoria, governor of Eastern Equatoria and the governor of Western Equatoria in our security reports that the activities of the rebels of Thomas Cirillo Swaka in Central, Eastern and parts of Western Equatoria will have a great impact on the security situation of the region and the trade. The governor of Central Equatoria state took our advice and came to Uganda last month and there was a talk between him and officials from Adjumani district”, said the officer.

During the meeting, the two leaders reportedly resolved to forward the matter up to the level of the two heads of state and their ministries of defence, security and foreign affairs to ensure rebel activities are stopped.

According to the UNHCR, there are 958,968 South Sudanese refugees who are still in Uganda despite the signing of the peace agreement in September 2018.

South Sudan estimates that about 4,000 rebels could be hiding in the refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda, amid concerns it could disrupt cross border activities if no immediate actions are taken to address the issue.

During the meeting, Governor Adil said some rebels opposed to September 2018 peace agreement have continued recruiting at Uganda’s 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 reenergize our border relation and cooperation as agreed in the earlier meetings”, he explained.

Adil reportedly requested Uganda to flush out rebels from their territories so that the two countries can 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,” he further stressed.

For his part, the Adjumani RDC said Uganda was making efforts to identify rebels in camps to repatriate them and ensure that security is guaranteed.

“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,” he explained.

The army recently warned that 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,” said UPDF 4th division spokesperson, Capt Hammad Hassan Kato.

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

The bilateral meetings involving the two local leaders was preceded by several other past meetings. In November 2020, former South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Johnson Juma Okot led a military delegation to meet UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Wilson Mbadi in Gulu town.

The meeting aimed at settling a series of clashes between the two forces at their common borderlines and deriving peaceful coexistence mechanisms.

News Agencies