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A South Sudan official has accused the North of providing support and training camps for the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, to enable cross-border attacks into South Sudan. At a press conference recently in Juba, the South Sudan minister of interior Alison Manani Magaya said that Sudan is looking for all possible ways of destabilizing South Sudan.
The minister’s comments are the latest in a string of accusations from high-ranking South Sudanese officials that Khartoum is actively involved in supporting rebel groups in South Sudan. Magaya said the LRA is carrying out cross-border attacks in Western Bahr el Ghazal state and their presence is disturbing the local population.
"They have a training camp at the border between Western Bahr el Ghazal and Darfur, where they are being trained and supplied,” Magaya said.
The minister linked the LRA incursions to a broader concern about South Sudan’s susceptibility to terrorism. “Terrorism might come here because of bad infrastructure,” Magaya said.
The minister said his assessment comes from information gathering and sharing with foreign intelligence services, noting that “27 entry points along the border with Sudan will be reinforced” in response to the immediate threat posed by the LRA. He also referenced South Sudan’s much-discussed ranking as one of the top five terrorism prone countries, according to analysis by global risk agency Maplecroft. Weak infrastructure allows for illegal entries, Magaya said, adding that he believes “many bad people” have made their way into South Sudan.
The top U.N. official in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, the secretary general’s special representative, said the LRA is moving to Darfur and parts of Western Bahr el Ghazal. On the issue of South Sudan’s terrorism ranking, she explained that its ranking is mainly based on a single agency’s (Maplecroft) designation of the LRA as a “terrorist organization.” Johnson explained further that the definition used by Maplecroft is not shared by the United Nations. The United States designated the LRA as a terrorist organization in 2001.
The minister of interior categorized the security situation in the country as relatively calm and stable but said that remaining rebel groups still pose serious threats to security. He called on the rebels to accept reintegration but added, “amnesty offered by the president is not an open-ended process.” The time will come when the government will have to deal with these groups, Magaya said.
He announced South Sudanese government plans to establish a special anti-terrorism unit within its police force with the help of “international friends” and will be ramping up efforts to fight crime, instability, and cross-border attacks by LRA.
Photo: Members of a local defense force called the Arrow Boys in South Sudan (Enough/Laura Heaton)