KAMPALA. Uganda security forces in Koboko on Sunday arrested a South Sudanese army colonel on allegation of recruiting youths in the northern Uganda district into rebel ranks.
Ms Josephine Angucia, the West Nile police spokesperson, said Col John Data Taban, 51, claimed they run an extensive recruitment ring in both Uganda and South Sudan.
But Ms Angucia could not state how many youths have been drafted into the rebel South Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) activities.
She said some of the youth, who returned from South Sudan, said Col Data had promised them both cash and jobs, but they ended up in the rebel camps and were then ordered to fight the South Sudan government forces.
Recently, Col Paul Gabriel Lam, the deputy spokesperson of the SPLA-IO led by former South Sudan vice president Dr Riek Machar, said the youth who join them do so willingly. He said the youth join the rebel forces to protect their homes from government attacks.
But Brig Richard Karemire, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) spokesman, who acknowledged the arrest of Col Data, denied there was any widespread rebel recruitment network in the country.
He said Data is a fake self-appointed colonel.
“These activities are not widespread, they are very few and our security forces are handling the situation,” Brig Karemire said.
He warned the different forces not to use Uganda as recruitment ground, warning that those who attempt to do so would be prosecuted.
Brig Karemire said they are investigating Data and would soon arraigned him before the court.
Late last year and early this year, a wave of mysterious disappearance of refugees in urban centres took place and all were traced to have been taken by the government forces to either go and fight, or would be killed on suspicion of being members of the rebel groups. This forced South Sudanese refugees to attack people they did not know, but found within the camps.
The Uganda government and UNHCR officials said extra security measures had been put in place to protect the refugees.