4,000 S. Sudanese seek refuge in Uganda to escape renewed fighting

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Fresh fighting in Imatong state of South Sudan between the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and militias has led to entry of more than 4,000 refugees into Lamwo District.

In an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, the Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, Mr Jonathan Rutabingwa, said refugees started entering the country in big numbers on Monday.

“They are now over 4,000. We are happy that the UNHCR and Office of the Prime Minister are already on the ground putting up the necessary requirement so that the refugees can be settled in settlement camps,” Mr Rutabingwa said.

He added that security agencies are screening refugees to ensure that they do not smuggle weapons into Uganda.

Late last month, security reports indicated that there were heavy deployments by South Sudan government troops in rebel-held territories in Imatong state with the aim of launching offensives against the militias.

South Sudan government wants to take over Ayaci, Pajok, Pogea and Panyakwara, all in Imatong state that have been under the control of various militias groups.

Lamwo District chairperson Ogwok Komakech told Daily Monitor in an interview on Tuesday that more than 600 refugees are still being kept at Ngomoromo, awaiting relocation to a camp currently under construction.

“We have put to task the implementing partners to speed up with the construction of the structures so that the fleeing refugees can be helped, especially the children and women,” he said.
The Refugee Desk officer in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Mr Titus Jogo, said they are doing everything possible to see that the refugees are accommodated.

UNHCR and OPM have opened three settlement centres in Lamwo in Palabek Ogili, Palabek Gemand Palabek Kal, where they expect to accommodate 7,000 refugees.

Recently when Daily Monitor contacted the Commissioner of Ayaci County in Imatong state, Mr Benson Onek , he denied deployment of SPLA soldiers in the area, arguing that those fleeing are escaping from the famine.

Uganda currently hosts more than 700,000 South Sudanese refugees.

Majority of the refugees being hosted in northern Uganda crossed into the country following the renewed fights that erupted last year between the forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those of his former Vice president Riek Machar.

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