Despite the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, many traders and travelers from Uganda are flocking there unfazed. In June, clashes broke out in the South Sudan, capital Juba pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir against his then, First Vice President Riek Machar under the now broken unity government arrangement.
More than 300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of other displaced. At the height of the conflict in Juba, many Ugandans were either evacuated or fled back to the country on their own. Although relative calm has returned to Juba, there are frequent skirmishes between the two forces especially in the Equatoria Belt where Riek Machar spent 40 days running from government forces.
The South capital Juba is located in Central Equatoria State and also acts as the capital of the state. Sources say as he escaped, Machar mobilized the Equatorians against the Juba regime that is dominated by ethnic Dinka bent on establishing a Dinka-dominated political framework known as Dinkaism.
Since then government has reportedly been involved in revenge attacks on communities perceived to have offered Machar safe haven, triggering the huge influx of refugees into Uganda. There have also been ambushes on vehicles on the Nimule-Juba Road, a major artery for trade with Uganda.
The latest attack occurred last week on a Kampala-Juba bound Friendship Bus in which at least two people were killed and scores injured. In spite of the attack, as well as the volatile situation in South Sudan, many Ugandans, especially traders, are going back to ply their trade. At Arua Park, the hub for South Sudan bound passenger and cargo vehicles, it is business as usual as if calm has been restored fully in the world's youngest country.
Peace Mofat, a clerk with Eco Bus company, says there are so many travelers to South Sudan to the extent that they are booking for three days in advance.
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Unlike two months ago, when the conflict restarted, cargo trucks are also ferrying loads of goods to South Sudan.
Becky Taban, a Ugandan trader in Juba, says the Nimule-Juba route had been relatively safe, save for the recent ambush on the friendship bus.
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The South Sudan-bound cargo is dominated by foodstuffs and basic manufactured goods.