Riek Machar’s rebels fighting the government in the southern parts of the country are recruiting fresh fighters from among refugees in different camps in northern Uganda, Ugandan media houses have learnt.
The rebels promise recruits better pay and lives. In multiple interviews on June 22 with refugees in Bidi Bidi refugee camp in the West Nile district of Yumbe, many said rebel agents from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the opposition (SPLA-IO) move from camp to camp targeting mainly youths in new settlement zones. Some of the youths are reportedly tasked to convince their peers to join the rebel ranks.
“They normally come in plain clothes driving a land cruiser and they say they are fighting for SPLA-IO. Last week, two of my friends were taken but I refused. They told me that I should think about it,” Taban Juma, a refuge, said.
Bidi Bidi is now Africa’s largest refugee camp as of March 2017, housing more than 270,000 refugees out of the 1.2 million living in the country. Joseph Amule, the Refugees Welfare Chairperson (RWC) of Bidi Bidi zone three (a position equivalent to a village chairperson), confirmed the recruitment, saying his office receives regular complaints about the illegal recruitment.
“I am not sure about the numbers but it is not only youth that are being taken. Even grown-up males are being recruited,” Amule said.