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National Politics

UGANDA, HARBORING CRIMINALS, REBELS AND SUPPORT NETWORKS FOR BOTH SIDES IN SOUTH SUDAN

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By Timothy Sibasi-Political Risk Analyst

These intergovernmental relations between the Juba and Kampala based governments are now strained by pressure placed on local authorities in Uganda by their South Sudanese counterparts, who have accused Uganda of harboring criminals, rebels and providing a support networks for both warring parties in South Sudan, an undercover documented report by the International Refugees Rights Initiative has revealed

“They see this as a ground for the opposition to seek safety, to locate their family and to use for recruitment.” Says the IRRI report

The South Sudanese government has repeatedly asked for access to the refugee settlements, which the Ugandan government has rightly denied, at least publicly and since the current refugee influx.

Recruitment

IRRI received credible information about recruitment by South Sudanese warring parties in the refugee settlements in the Rhino camp. As a Catholic priest said, “Recruitment is a fact. Youth who are engaged in school are stable. But huge majorities of youth are redundant and engage in self-destructive behavior. They are targeted. Some even go by themselves. Some are being convinced.”

The link between their desperation and vulnerability to recruitment was reiterated by a refugee in Palabek, who told IRRI, “If I was approached by recruiters, I would accept, because when they recruit you, they pay very well.”

Recruitment does not seem to be a widespread phenomenon, but implicated South Sudan’s key conflict parties.

According to information received, government forces, the SPLM-IO and NAS have all recruited fighters in the refugee settlements in Uganda. A senior police officer in the Uganda Police force said, “Recruitment from both sides of the South Sudan conflict is a serious problem. They come and recruit boys from the camp. It happens often, when the time is there. We have arrested some of them, from the government side, and taken them to court martial in Gulu.”

At times, those involved have been arrested, but often they return to South Sudan or disappear off the official radar. The level of recruitment, and the actors engaged, seems to vary based on the refugee population in each settlement. In Imvepi refugee settlement, for example, NAS is presumed to have a strong support base, but SPLM-IO has also recruited there in the past.

Several interviewees said they knew of individuals from that settlement who had left for South Sudan to join armed groups, but had been killed. One young man in Imvepi said he escaped forced recruitment by the SPLM-IO by fleeing to Uganda, but had been approached multiple times by recruiters in the settlement, who offered money if he would go and fight in South Sudan.

Several also said that they had been approached for recruitment in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo and Obongi districts, but this settlement fell outside the scope of this research project. Most recruitment mentioned to IRRI has been taking place 2016 to early 2020. However, some reports indicated that the recruitment seem to have gone down because of the negotiations between the warring parties.

It remains difficult to establish the scope of this issue, because of the secrecy surrounding it and a lack of information. Several respondents refused to provide detailed information, fearing repercussions, such as a refugee in Boroli refugee settlement, “I know of a family in another block whose son was targeted, but he refused to go. I would not tell you his details, because they will put me in trouble if they know I said something about it.”

Furthermore, several members of ethnic groups have in the past accused refugees from other groups of supporting armed movements in South Sudan, which further complicates investigation.

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Patson Baraire Mushaija

South-West Correspondent African Dossier News Agency

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