KAMPALA/ JUBA – South Sudan has accused Uganda of supporting and hosting rebel groups opposed to President Salva Kiir’s government, amid a resurgence of hostility between the twoAfrican neighbors.
South Sudan authorities claim Uganda hosts the rebels in the refugee settlements camps in Kiryandongo, Adjumani and Lamwo districts.
Officials from Juba descanted their frustration with Uganda during an inter-border symposium between the two neighbors in Magwi County headquarters, South Sudan on Friday as officials sat to iron out security and cross-border threats.
South Sudan security officials alleged that intelligence information indicates that rebels are harboured in the refugee settlements in Uganda from where they coordinate their activities before intensifying attacks in South Sudan.
Mr. Alberio Tobiolo Oromo, the the Governor of Torit State, Eastern Equatorial Province told the meeting that they have since arrested one of the rebel leaders who has been funding youthful asylum seekers in Kampala and in refugee settlements in Adjumani, Kiryandongo and Lamwo districts to rebel against Juba administration.
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.
South Sudan officials claimed 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 retreat back to Uganda as refugees and asylum seekers.
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 compromises 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.
Uganda faces similar accusations from Rwanda and Democratic Republican of Congo.
Rwanda accuses Uganda of offering succor to two foreign-based Rwanda rebel groups – Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The RNC is a rebel group led by some of Rwanda’s most prominent dissidents including South Africa-based Kayumba Nyamwasa. Its founders say it is a political party.
The FDLR is a rebel group composed in part of former Rwandan soldiers and Hutu militias who fled into Democratic Republic of Congo after massacring around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The group has since sought to topple Kagame’s government.