INFORMAL CROSS BORDER TRADE TURNS SOUR FOR UGANDA TRADERS IN SOUTH SUDAN: GOODS AND SHOPS DESTROYED

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Two-year old Gibson Okello is not sure of his future if his father is not paid by South Sudan government for destroyed merchandize.

GULU-UGANDA: A group of thirteen Ugandans who were doing informal trade/business at Owiny-ki-bul located ten kilometers inside South Sudan from the common border have threatened to hunt down South Sudanese living in Gulu and destroy all South Sudan’s registered vehicles in Gulu unless the debts are paid.

Thirteen Ugandan traders and nine South Sudan nationals lost their merchandise worth $7,200 (for Ugandan traders only) on 22nd -23rd February 2015 when Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) recruits from a nearby training camp clashed with their instructors which spread to the civilian and traders at the trading center.

There were a total of twenty-four shops belonging to both South Sudan nationals and Ugandan traders where merchandise worth $19,200 US dollars, burnt to ashes in the inferno.

”We need to be compensated so that we can urgently return to our normal business that serves the large population of the civilians and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) of Owiny-ki-bul”, wrote Mr. M. Simon to Brigadier General Louis Lobong Lojore who is Governor of Eastern Equatoria State based in Torit on 9th March, 2015.

One recruit was killed in the scuffle while six instructors, thirteen recruits, eighteen and eighteen civilians were injured shops and civilian houses burnt to ashes.

“In regards to Owiny-ki-bul crisis between the recruits and the instructors and the civilians that occurred on 22nd to 23rd February 2015 in which the fight spread between the recruits and the civilians in the area, where one recruit soldier was killed, six instructors, thirteen recruits, eighteen civilians injured, 115 grass huts, 23 shops and four local bars were burnt, caused displacement of the people of the area”.

A report from the Clerk of Assembly, East Equatorial State Legislative Assembly based in Torit to the House dated 23rd March 2015 reads in parts. It was reported to the Assembly by Mr. Peter Otim Karlo, the local area Member of the Assembly, Constituency No.27, Magwi County on the same day.

The Assembly recommended “fair compensation” to the people affected people: “Those people who lost their belongings more especially the house-hold items which were burnt in the house inferno and the business commodities, be fairly compensated by the National Government of South Sudan”.

The unfortunate Ugandan traders told journalists at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) in Gulu town on Friday, 28th August 2015 that they have tried all avenues to get compensated, but no tangible results so far. They revealed that the commissioner of Magwi County ordered his escort to shoot them on 16th June 2015 when they went to him to intervene on their behalf.

“We are giving South Sudan government 14 days from 21st August 2015 to make our payment. Failure to pay us within the stipulated time, we shall mobilize our members and act like systematic non-selective herbicides by destroying South Sudan vehicles which bears registration numbers EE and CE in Uganda. We shall hunt for South Sudan nationals in Uganda in order to compensate our losses incurred in South Sudan”. Their letter dated 20th August 2015 addressed to the Governor, Eastern Equatoria State based in Torit read in parts.  

One of the victims, Joe Ojok, a twenty-two year old man, told journalists that he was dealing in ready-made clothes, shoes, solar, and that he lost all his goods including a generator. His wife, Brenda Aromorach said she had just been there at Owiny-ki-bul for about a month when the incident happened.

“We were just relaxing in the evening when soldiers came and started beating up people. I was beaten on the back and I am still feeling pain up to now. When we ran away from home, they found petrol left behind in the shops, poured it all over the shops and burnt all our goods including household utensils.” She said.

Another victim, forty-eight year old Martin Kidega, said he started business from Gulu Main Market in Uganda in 1999 and was specializing in ready-made clothes, but moved to Nimule border town in South Sudan in 2005. He later moved to Owiny-ki-bul in 2009.

The traders were getting their merchandise from Kampala, Uganda and were paying heavily for doing business in South Sudan. While they were paying immigration and annual residence permit (visa) at $100 each item, their South Sudanese counterpart in Uganda don’t pay anything since they enter as refugees.

Acholi Paramout Chief, Rwot David Onen-Acana II told the Black Star News that he met the aggrieved traders yesterday, 2nd September 2015 and told them that he has already communicated to government their matter through the ministry of Security and Foreign Affairs.

“I told them to follow up their matter with the South Sudan Consulate here in Gulu, peacefully without resorting to violence.”

According to statistics from Bank of Uganda of June 2015, Uganda imports totaled $724 million while exports was merely $426 million, hence the inflation. A dollar fluctuates between 3500 to 3600 Uganda shillings. This has increased demand for dollar since such traders who do informal trade across borders don’t pay export fee. 

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