UPDF rushes to Moyo as heavy gunfire stirs panic

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UPDF trucks on South Sudan border

Heavy gunfire broke out on Friday morning and spread panic across Moyo, the border town of West Nile.

Lt. Hassan Ahmed Kato, the UPDF spokesperson for West Nile Sub region, told Uganda Radio Network [URN] that heavy shelling was sustained in Jale Township, some two kilometers inside South Sudan.

The heavy gunfight erupted as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in opposition (SPLA-IO) attacked a military Base in Jale at about 6a.m.

They reportedly overran the base but later voluntarily withdrew after recovering some weapons including PKT Machine guns, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade, uniforms and few ground sheets.

According to Lt. Kato, the dawn attack which lasted for 45 minutes triggered a wave of fear and panic in Moyo town as well as in Jale Township.

He told URN that civilians crossed over to Moyo town where Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) troops are deployed.

Although relative calm has returned in Moyo town, residents and those displaced are still eager to get details of the incident.

In June this year, gunmen suspected to be members of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA) raided Bari Village in Metu sub-county, Moyo district, and disappeared with more than 180 heads of cattle.

The gunmen also abducted 13 South Sudanese refugees and drove them back to South Sudan, along with the cattle.

Bari village has many South Sudanese refugees who have moved across the border and settled among the locals without formally registering with the government authorities.

In April, five gunmen abducted people at Afoji market in Moyo district. However, few days later, two of the suspects were arrested by locals when they resurfaced in the same market.

In the same month, two unknown gunmen suspected to be from across the borders shot dead Chaplain Wani, a 79-year-old refugee in Belemeling refugee settlement camp in Moyo district.

For years now, residents in the district have also borne the brunt of the South Sudanese armed forces, who claim several miles of land in the district, saying it belongs to the South Sudan government.

In 2013, the Inspector Generals of Police (IGPs), Gen Kale Kayihura, and Gen Pieng Kuol (former) signed a bilateral agreement in Arua on security where issues of joint patrol at the borders were discussed. But this seems to have hit a dead end.