On Sunday, four drivers and four traders left their families in Koboko for South Sudan, with the hope that they would return with some bread for their families.
Little did they know that this would be the last time they would see their families.
They were ambushed, killed and their cars burnt by unknown gunmen at Ganji on Yei-Juba highway in South Sudan before reaching South Sudan’s Capital.
Some of the deceased were identified as Ronald Amati from Maracha District, Sadam Andama (driver), Dada Abugo (driver), and Ali Sonny all from Koboko District.
On Monday, their families back home waited for their loved ones to return but instead received phone calls informing them about the tragedy
After the killings, it took three days of negotiation with the Government of South Sudan and Ugandan officials to have the bodies returned for burial.
When the bodies were returned on Thursday, residents of Koboko thronged the town to receive them, with some receiving first aid after collapsing due to shock.
Mr Ismail Deneya, a brother of Sadam, said he wants the South Sudanese government to compensate the bereaved families.
“For us, each time our people go to South Sudan to look for survival, they come back in coffins yet the South Sudanese are here living and doing business in Koboko peacefully,” Mr Deneya said as a he broke down.
He urged the Ugandan government to work out modalities of compensating the families of those killed because they have left a huge gap, adding that his brother was looking for money to pay school fees for his siblings and rent.
Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, South Sudan had become a lucrative place for business, attracting businessmen from Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea, Kenya, and DR Congo.
Mr Swaib Maliamungu, a relative to one of the deceased drivers, accused Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officials at Moyo of asking for bribes, which he says is making it had for many drivers to use the Yei-Juba route.
“URA officers at Moyo caused the death of my brother. Initially the drivers used to use Moyo road which was safe but ever since these new URA officials were posted to Moyo, they over charge cars with foreign number plates, sometimes after confiscating their products. They ask for more than Shs1 million in bribes and this is now scaring many drivers, making them to use the unsafe road,” he said.
Ms Shamin Kereke, a relative of Abugo, said: “We depended so much on Dada because he was the sole breadwinner for us. How are we going to survive as a family? We need government to compensate us because he only went to look for survival for us.”
While presiding over Jannaza prayers on Thursday, Sheikh Safi Noah said: “It is sad that our brothers had gone to look for survival in Juba but came back in coffins. I am requesting that we should not think of revenge but rather leave Allah to judge.”
Responding to the accusations of overcharging by URA at Lefori Customs, Mr Ivan Kakaire, the URA Northern Region manager, promised to follow up the matter with actions.
“I request you to give us particulars of those URA officers cited in extorting money from drivers so that we can take action.”
The Aswa Regional police commander, Mr Stephen Kaija, urged the mourners to be calm.
“Let us not blame the government of Southern Sudan. This unfortunate incident were committed by individuals opposed to the government. We are engaging our counterparts to see that these things don’t continue.”
Speaking to Sunday Monitor on Phone on Tuesday afternoon, the commissioner for Lanya County in Yei River State, Mr Morris Kenyi, urged businessmen to use Nimule route because it is safer.