Ugandans who had been trapped in the troubled South Sudan sighed with relief and ululated after being evacuated by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) on Friday
Ugandans who had been trapped in the troubled South Sudan sighed with relief and ululated after being evacuated by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) on Friday. About 1,000 people were evacuated on the first day of the rescue mission.
They crossed through Elegu border post in Atiak Sub-county Amuru District on Friday evening amid thunderous cheers from businessmen at Elegu Trading Centre and Ugandan security officials.
Majority of the Ugandans are business persons operating in Gumbo market in Juba Town, Nisitu Town and Juba, capital of South Sudan.
The UPDF rescue mission follows the fights that erupted between soldiers loyal to president Salva Kiir and his first vice president, Dr Riek Machar last week. The fighting left over 300 people dead and over 36,000 displaced into neighboring countries. President Museveni last week ordered for the evacuation of Ugandans trapped in the South Sudan.
The evacuation mission
On Thursday morning, two battalions of heavily armed UPDF soldiers commanded by the Gulu 4th Division infantry Commander, Brig Kayanja Muhanga, left Elegu border in Atiak Sub-county Amuru District into South Sudan in a convoy of about 40 army and police trucks.
The UPDF convoy, however, entered into an ambush later in the afternoon at Moli village in Magwi county, Eastern Equatorial state after unknown gunmen shot at one of the trucks injuring three soldiers. The journey was delayed for more than 40 minutes as a team of UPDF went on to assess the situation.
The convoy thus spent a night at Nisitu Barracks in Nisitu Town before proceeding to Gumbo Market on Friday where thousands of Ugandans from different parts of South Sudan had camped waiting for evacuation.
On sight of the UPDF convoy, businesses at the market came to a standstill as Ugandans ululated and cheered the government’s efforts to rescue them.
Brig Muhanga, who is heading the evacuation mission, told journalists at Gumo Market that the evacuation will be held in two batches because of the overwhelming numbers of those registered.
“The trucks we came with cannot accommodate all the people who have registered to come to Uganda. We have decided that the next batch will be evacuated on Saturday. UPDF will remain in Nisitu waiting for the last evacuation,” Brig Muhanga said.
Brig Muhanga, however, said no one has been forced to evacuate adding that it is a choice for one to leave South Sudan or stay although he warned that the security in the country is still fragile.
“Majority of those evacuated are women and children. We are estimating that more 3,000 people will be evacuated in the next batch on Saturday,” he said.
The life saving move
Brig Muhanga said some people who have vehicles and motorcycles were given the green light to join the army convoy as it headed to Uganda.
Mr Xavier Oloya, one of those evacuated who hails from Gulu District said he had been hiding in his house for the last four days in Juba city since the fights broke out last week.
“Since the fighting erupted, I could not get out of the house until I learnt about the evacuation mission and was able to come out of the house to Gumbo Market to get registered. I am happy today that I am going home safely courtesy of the UPDF,” Mr Oloya said.
Mr Elijah Nyaderi, a Kenyan national employed by Spedag Interfreight as a driver, lauded President Museveni for ordering the evacuation.
“Although some of us are not Ugandans, the evacuation mission did not leave us out. We are grateful to Uganda for the help they extended to us,” Mr Nyaderi said.
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