Members of Parliament have called on government to tackle the insecurity at Uganda – South Sudan border which has worsened since the attack on Ugandan traders by South Sudan soldiers in 2021.
The impasse led to the death of 28 truck drivers and 16 trucks carrying goods from Uganda to South Sudan were burnt down. Following those attacks, the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, directed the Committees of Foreign Affairs and East African Community Affairs to undertake an oversight visit and appraise the House on the security situation at the border.
While presenting their report, the Chairperson of the Committee on East African Community Affairs, Noeline Basemera Kisembo said that insecurity at the border has not ceased and that Ugandans continue to lose their lives and property.
“The truck drivers indicated that the security situation along the Juba-Nimule route has not improved much despite the diplomatic engagements between the Government of Uganda and South Sudan,” said Kisembo.
Kisembo said that the relationships between Uganda and South Sudan is still fragile adding that this was evident when the MPs on the two committees were accosted by the South Sudan security forces on the Ugandan side.
“During the oversight visit, the South Sudan soldiers had set up security check and detention points on the Ugandan side where a Ugandan was being held. The SSPDF even attempted to block members of the committees from accessing the area,” said Kisembo.
Kisembo added that they were dismayed to establish that the South Sudan soldiers interfere in government projects in Uganda.
“The local authorities of Amuru district informed the committee that South Sudan forces had interfered with and delayed the construction process of the Aswa hydro power plant on Aswa River near Lamwo, which is clearly on the Uganda side of the border claiming that the river falls in the territory of South Sudan,” she said.
The committees recommended that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and East African Community Affairs should intensify engagements with the Government of South Sudan at both bilateral and regional levels to ensure the safety and security of Ugandans operating within South Sudan.
“The diplomatic engagements should be continuous until the safety and security of the Ugandans is guaranteed,” Kisembo added.
The committees in their report also call expeditious the completion of the Joint border demarcation process with South Sudan in order to protect Uganda’s territorial integrity and mitigate the security threats posed by incursions by South Sudan armed forces into the Ugandan territory.
“The border demarcation exercise should be conducted jointly by the two countries and should be informed by the existing treaties, orders, colonial maps and coordinates to lessen the possibility of conflicts in the process of validating boundary points,” the report adds.
MPs urge government to address the poor relationship with South Sudan saying that even Ugandans who live in Juba have been harassed over baseless grounds.
Legislators observed that South Sudan has been and remains a potential market for Uganda, a reason the government must take heed and stabilise the relationship.
“Over the years, the security situation along the Uganda-South Sudan border has been appalling; I want to ask government that knowing what South Sudan is, we should continuously engage them and support them so that we stabilise the region. ,” said Tonny Ayoo (NRM, Kwania County).
According to the report Uganda’s exports to South Sudan increased to US$28.7 million in December 2020 from US$25.9 million in November 2020.
UPDF representative, Gen Henry Masiko said there is need to engage the East African Legislative Assembly to amplify the need to integrate not only on business but also on security.
“We should lobby members of the East African legislature to start talking passionately about the misfortunes of the East Africa integration. I am appealing that let us increase our voice on what our medicine will be,” said Masiko.
Bukanga North MP, Nathan Byanyima was concerned that South Sudan has over time abused Uganda’s hospitality despite all the support accorded to them by the Uganda government.
“We cannot run away from that relationship; Uganda has been very hospitable to them but there is an abuse of our hospitability. Our soldiers were there to stabilise that region but they are hostile to us. Imagine they have shunned our buses, they want to use only theirs,” said Byanyima.
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