The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) this week handed over 15 South Sudanese captives, some of whom, had been in detention for months in Uganda, back to South Sudanese authorities.
The Ugandan Ministry of Defence and UPDF spokesperson, Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso, told Radio Tamazuj that they handed over to South Sudanese authorities, 13 South Sudanese civilians, and two South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) soldiers.
“Thirteen South Sudanese were handed back to the South Sudan government by UPDF and these were captured on 18th December 2020 when they illegally crossed into Ugandan territory,” Brig. Byekwaso said. “Along with these people, there were also two SSPDF soldiers that were handed back. The two soldiers had been apprehended on 27th October 2020. They were also handed back to the government of South Sudan.”
The UPDF spokesperson said the armed civilians crossed into Ugandan territory illegally and were in possession of MK4 and MK5 rifles, some sub-machine guns, and hand grenades at the time of their capture. But, she added, the arms were not returned during their release.
The SSPDF confirmed that they had received 15 South Sudanese, five soldiers, and 10 civilians.
SSPDF deputy spokesman, Brigadier Santo Domic, told Radio Tamazuj that, “It is true that these people were along the common border and they strayed into Uganda and the UPDF arrested them. So, as a country and as SSPDF we worked with the Ugandan government and army to resolve this case and they were released to us about three days ago.”
Adding: “They were fifteen in number. 10 were civilians and five were soldiers. But the soldiers did not even have our identity cards. There is a problem of people involved in transnational border crimes who use our uniforms. Even if a person is wearing a uniform but does not have identification papers to prove it, it means he is not a soldier.”
The army deputy spokesman said the captives were in detention for some time as the authorities from both countries investigated whether they were soldiers or not.
Mr Domic assured that all captives were handed over to the SSPDF at the border and no one remained in detention in Uganda.