Lamwo locals in fear as suspected spla-iosoldiers sneak into refugee centers

Lamwo locals in fear as suspected spla-iosoldiers sneak into refugee centers

BY BLESSING NIMARO CHRISTINE

Residents in Lamwo district are expressing fear over Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) soldiers who are suspected to have sneaked into settlement centres in the district.

The unspecified numbers of SPLA-IO soldiers are believed to have entered Uganda due to the biting hunger and failure by their government to pay their salaries for the last three months.

More than 40,000 South Sudan nationals are living as refugees in three settlement centres of Palabek- Kal, Palabek-Gem and Palabek Ogili, all in Lamwo district.

The South Sudan nationals fled their homes in March last year, when the SPLA-IO forces launched a manhunt for several militia groups in Imatong state considered a security threat to President Savla Kiir’s government.

Louis Obalim, a 47 year old resident of Palabek Ogili Sub County, told Northern Era that the host communities are afraid of the SPLA-IO being among the refugees.

“We cannot be at peace unless the security officials tell us what is on the ground exactly.”

“There are worries that the SPLA-IO might have sneaked here [Uganda] to spy on those with animals and granaries so that they loot them,” he says.

According to Obalim, hearing about the SPLA when they are recovering from the two decades of war in the region, reminds them of bad days when they lost their loved ones and properties.

Obalim added that association of the SPLA-IO and refugees with the locals could result to insecurity, due to arms deals.

The LCIII Chairperson Palabek Ogili Sub County, Christopher Omal validates the worries of the locals on the security threats.

“We have been hearing such allegations but the security personnel are aware of it and we hope we remain safe,” he says

Omal added that security has been beefed up in the refugee settlement centers and community sensitization has also been ongoing in the host communities so that there is vigilance everywhere.

The Camp Commandant Lamwo refugee settlement Centre, David Wangwe, says they are only aware of ex-combatants who are now civilians. He says there are security officials at the known border points, inspecting people entering the country as refugee.

“We have a team of several security officials at the border who do security checks to ensure that no one sneaks into the centers with any ammunition,” he says.

Wangwe adds that active South Sudan soldiers are handled by Uganda state security officials when they come out openly. He notes that only those with ill intentions use the porous border points to enter the county in the disguise of refugees.

Lamwo RDC, Jonathan Rutabingwa, says he has got reports of SPLA-IO soldiers sneaking into Uganda, and informed the security agencies.

He encourages the locals to remain calm, because their security is guaranteed.

Fourth and Fifth Division Army Public Relations Officer, Telesphor Turyamumanya, corroborates Wangwe claim.

“There is a spillover of the war from South Sudan but our security is guaranteed and our people in the settlement centers and within the host communities should remain calm,’” he said

Turyamumanya clarifies that the UPDF is not embracing combatants, so whoever wants to seek refuge status in Uganda should leave their gun in Sudan.

“Whoever has sneaked into the country with ammunition is just a criminal and will be dealt with,” Turyamumanya states.

In November last year, police arrested a South Sudan refugee who was found with ammunition in the settlement.