Margaret Ayo, the Chairperson Elegu Market Vendors Association, says that across the border, trade is smooth when being operated by South Sudanese, while Ugandans are robbed, their goods destroyed and the people killed.
South Sudan traders at Elegu in Uganda alleged that the police officers demand for money from the Sudanese or mobile phones and other valuables as security that they will cross back into South Sudan.
Traders along the border areas affected by
insecurity have appealed to the government of Uganda to find lasting solutions that
will protect them as well as the trade. The most affected are those operating across borders
with South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda since Kigali closed
her borders with Uganda more than two years ago. The cross-border
traders, who are usually small-scale and informal dominate the business that is
done by use of motorcycles, small cars,
pickups and on foot.
Traders at Elegu and Nimule on the Uganda and South
Sudanese side of the border respectively have in recent months suffered
increased cases of insecurity due to the political conflicts in S. Sudan. Only last week,
the regional truck drivers ended a two-week strike at Elegu protesting the killing of their colleagues along the Nimule-Juba Highway.
They say their plight has not been highlighted
with all focus on truck drivers, yet they dominate especially the food supply
business to S. Sudan. Margaret Ayo, the Chairperson Elegu Market Vendors
Association, says that across the border, trade is smooth when being operated
by South Sudanese while Ugandans are robbed, their goods destroyed and the traders killed.
She called for the fast-tracking of the construction of border markets so that
Ugandans do not have to risk crossing the border to take supplies.
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Ayo also repeated allegations that police and
customs personnel at the borders abuse female traders through extortion and sexual
harassment. A Senior Commercial Officer at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and
Cooperatives, Juliet Kagona, says Cross-border traders should learn to avoid illegal trade routes
because when arrested security personnel take advantage to abuse them.
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Sheila Kawamara, the Executive Director East
African Subregional Support Initiative, EASSI, says politically-motivated
insecurity has affected small traders more because they largely deal in
perishable goods. She says that the small cross-border traders have very little capital,
which can be lost if the border is closed even for a day.
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Ugandan security officers on the borders with
South Sudan are also under the limelight for allegedly mistreating South Sudanese
who want to do business in Uganda. It's alleged that the
police officers demand money from the Sudanese or mobile phones and other
valuables as security that they will cross back into South Sudan.
Yomima Semira, the chairperson Nimule Women
Cross-border Traders Association, condemns this harassment by Ugandan officers,
when Ugandan traders are trading freely across the border.
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Semira adds that it is wrong to assume that it's
foreigners who are being killed in South Sudan when the citizens are also
dying. She called for improved relations between the people of other countries and S. Sudan so that the country
is not just a consumer of the region’s products but an exporter too, because S. Sudanese also produce.
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Miria Akankwasa, a trader at Katuna and
chairperson of the Women Cross-border trader’s association in Katuna area, says
some trade between Uganda and Rwanda goes on, but this is done by trucks.
She says small-scale traders are banned by Rwanda, the
reason some have been killed trying to move goods across the borders.
Akankwasa says if the governments cannot solve the border issue, Uganda
should find a way of facilitating the small traders to switch to other
businesses. She says the uncertainty on when the borders
would reopen meant made it hard for traders to preserve their capital.
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MP Catherine Lamwaka, the chairperson of the Committee of
Trade, Industry and Cooperatives,
says the construction of the Elegu border market is
in the pipeline following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding
between Amuru District Local Government and Trademark East Africa. Lamwaka
is hopeful that as MPs, they will push through a proposal that the issue of the
Elegu Export Market is put in the next budget.
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In DR Congo, traders across the border in West
Nile, say that while there has been some improvement in the security in the
country, there are still issues along the borders with some security operatives
still asking for money. There are also some incidents where armed groups
or persons not attached to the government of Kinshasa stage robberies and even murder Ugandan
traders in the Congo.
Kate Berocan, the Secretary of Nebbi Women
Cross-border Traders Association, says that across in Congo, they are
only allowed to trade in Padea or stay at Goli on the Ugandan side. She
said many Ugandans have died at the hands of armed Congolese but civilian
deaths go largely unreported.