JUBA – The residents of Pogee Boma in Parajok Payam, Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria State have accused the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) of encroaching into and carrying out patrols in South Sudan territory, creating fear among locals, Radio Tamazuj reports.
Local authorities and sources said the heavy UPDF deployment resulted from last month’s raiding of cattle from Uganda’s Lamwo district by armed elements from South Sudan who killed a Ugandan local government official.
Aloka Robert, a Pogee resident said the UPDF were patrolling the border entry point using armored vehicles and heavy weaponry causing trepidation among the people.
“The UPDF has come inside the checkpoint and do their operations just near where the civilians are near the barracks. They move using Mambas (armored personnel carriers) and enter almost 3 kilometers from the checkpoint of Pogee,” he said. “It has created fear. People are cultivating the other (Ugandan) side and now they fear and cannot go. Even up to now they (UPDF) are moving.”
Aloka said the UPDF patrol areas in South Sudan at night, dawn, during the day and at times leave in the evening.
“Before the UPDF came in, people moved freely to go to Ngomoromo market and they would visit their relatives across either side of the border because we have intermarriages, uncles, and in-laws on either side,” he said.
Aloka appealed to officials from both countries to dialogue and resolve any problems for the well-being of the people along the common border.
Peter Lokeng Lotone, the Eastern Equatoria State local government and law enforcement agencies minister, said the presence of UPDF in South Sudan territory is a national matter which the state cannot handle alone.
He reechoed that the UPDF deployment was in reaction to a cattle raid in Uganda by armed South Sudanese elements.
“We have been aware of the Ugandan forces in Magwi. Several incidents happened in Lamwo District (Uganda) regarding cattle raiding and of recent that made them (UPDF) deploy along the border,” he said. “I think one of the Ugandan Local Council chairpersons was killed during a raid.”
He added: “The people who raided the cattle from Uganda are Dinka from Bor and the UPDF followed their tracks that is why they deployed and now it is not a state problem but a national problem.”
Robert Agany Okumu, an SPLM party lawmaker from the area said the presence of the UPDF in Pogee threatens the security situation and creates fear among the locals.
“The Ugandan government has now come as far as the area of Pogee causing insecurity to the population. I do not know if the commissioner is aware of the current situation,” he said. “We heard from the people on the ground that there is a big number of soldiers (UPDF) and they are clearing bushes. So, we need the commissioner of Magwi to give us an update.”
For his part, the Commissioner of Magwi County, David Otto Remson, confirmed that there is heavy UPDF deployment beyond the border point, River Limu, and into South Sudan.
Efforts to reach SSPDF spokesperson Major General Lul Ruai for comment were futile as his telephone went unanswered.