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S. Sudan rebels deny collaborating with Lira preacher for new recruits

Lul Ruai Koang, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2016 (R). Photographer: Samir Bol/AFP/Getty Images

A rebel group in South Sudan has denied collaborating with renowned Lira street preacher, Jorom Opio in bid to recruit Ugandan youth into the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -in-Opposition (SPLM-IO).

The Preacher was arrested earlier this month from his home in Lira Town during a joint operation by the UPDF 4th Division intelligence unit and the Police Flying Squad on allegations that he serves the anti-governmental forces with recruits in their war against President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

The rebels’ deputy military spokesperson, Col. Paul Gabriel Lam told a local news daily on Wednesday the SPLA-IO does not know or have anyone called Jorom Opio in its ranks or file.

“The SPLA IO strongly refutes the accusation made by the UPDF 4th Division Commander, Brig. Emmanuel Kanyesigye linking a Ugandan pastor Jorom Opio to the people’s movement (SPLM/A IO),” Col. Paul Gabriel Lam said.

“Besides the SPLA IO does not recruit foreigners nor does it operate abroad. The South Sudanese who joined the SPLA IO do so voluntarily to bring about reforms to South Sudan under the leadership of Dr Riek Machar. This requires personal sacrifice,”  he continued.

Adding, “Brig. Kanyesigye in his accusation continued alleging that the so called Pastor Jorom Opio represented the SPLA IO last year in the peace talks that resulted to the signed cessation of hostilities (COH) on 21/12/2017. This is completely false. The government of Uganda, being a member of the IGAD, knows exactly who represented the SPLM/A IO in the HLRF since it started on 18/12/2017,”

Col. Lam told the News paper SPLA IO holds the Ugandan government with high esteem “for not only hosting and protecting millions of South Sudanese refugees who fled the country due to the current conflict, but also for tirelessly working hard to bring peace to South Sudan through the HLRF. Thus, the SPLA IO has nothing to do with the aforementioned pastor.”

About the war

A fall-out between President Kiir and former Vice-President Machar – the most powerful members of their respective Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups – led to the civil war which erupted in December 2013, reports show.

SPLA IO at this moment seeks to overthrow President Kiir from power. Terrible atrocities have been carried out by both sides – often along ethnic lines.

Mass rape has been used as a weapon of war and United Nations reports have detailed human rights abuses.

Some 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes, and millions more need food aid, according to the BBC.

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