Juba must guarantee safety of Ugandans

Wednesday October 12 2016

Mr Mustapha Nkuutu, 38, one of the Ugandans shot at A

Mr Mustapha Nkuutu, 38, one of the Ugandans was shot at Aruu Junction, Magwi county in South Sudan recently. File photo 

By Editorial

Armed men on Monday ambushed three Uganda-bound buses inside South Sudan, and stole passengers’ cash and merchandise. They incinerated one of the buses.

We condemn this barbaric act and the fear it is calculated to instill. From November 2015 to this week, four Ugandans have been killed and three injured in four ambushes on five buses and a rescue UPDF convoy.

This is grotesque, particularly that these stated incidents exclude unreported cases in which Ugandans have been attacked, killed or injured.

South Sudan relies heavily on Uganda and neighbouring countries for supply of food, construction materials and other merchandise. Put another way, the necessities of life. That makes it a cash-cow for the exporting countries.

This is a healthy symbiotic relationship envisaged between neighbours and under the East African Community bloc, which we support as a driver of prosperity for the citizens. South Sudan is a newcomer to the community and must prove its accession is a dividend, not a problem, multiplier.

The Monday raid, whereas bloodless as by reports so far, still projects the lawlessness and potential losses that our nationals plying the Juba route endure.

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Twenty-one people were reported killed in ambushes on roads in Yei, in the Central Equatoria State, on the weekend preceding waylaying of the Ugandan buses hours later in Eastern Equatoria State.

No doubt, Juba and other South Sudan towns provide lucrative markets. But increasing insecurity is making them less attractive.

Our earnings from exports there in one year to May 2016 was $290.8 million (Shs981 billion), a 31 per cent drop from the $423.6 million (Shs1.4 trillion) fetched in May 2014, according to Bank of Uganda statistics.

The downward spiral began after fresh fighting erupted in 2013, reversing Uganda’s record $1.18 billion (Shs4 trillion) earning within the first three years from the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Uganda has invested substantially in first the independence, and later stabilisation, of Africa’s newest nation. It is hosting thousands of South Sudanese refugees, which is why we have a legitimate interest in what happens in South Sudan. We understand the formative pains of statehood that South Sudan is experiencing, but its leaders should not turn their back on traders they invited to return with assurance that calm had been restored.

We urge President Museveni and Foreign Affairs officials in Kampala to urgently engage with counterparts in South Sudan to guarantee the safety and welfare of citizens on either side of the border.

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