Kampala has called for enhanced security onthe Nimule-Juba road in South Sudan where attacks in the last week of March resulted in the killing of eight Ugandan drivers.
“We are engaging with the government of South Sudan to ensure security from Uganda border points to Juba,” said Arthur Kafeero, Uganda’s Director for Regional and International Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ambassador Kafeero said the Elegu-Nimule-Juba route is a major transport corridor for Uganda and South Sudan.
The deathof the eight drivers sparked protests at Elegu, a major crossing point from Uganda to South Sudan, paralysing flow of exports and travel of passengers to Juba. Drivers parked their trucks at Elegu on March 27 and by Thursday, April 8, had not called off the protest.
The drivers, who are transporting goods to Juba, refused to cross into South Sudan, demanding that authorities address the incidents of violent crimes such as hijackings, shootings, ambushes, assaults, kidnapping and looting.
In a statement earlier, Juba blamed the attacks on rebel groups opposed to the implementation of the South Sudan peace agreement.
An association for Kenyan drivers early this week announced it had suspended transport to South Sudan over the killing of their colleagues in an attack last week.
South Sudan is highly dependent on import, mainly from Kenya and Uganda, and the drivers’ continued protests could affect supply of goods in the country.
“Any interruption to trade for such a vulnerable economy is of concern. Beyond security measures, there is clearly a need for economic stabilisation to tackle the underlying problems causing the instability and poverty in the country,” said Andrew Mold,
Chief, Regional Integration and AfCFTA Cluster Regional Office for Eastern Africa, at the
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Uganda’s leading exports to South Sudan include cereals, maize and wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oils, beer, soft drinks, iron, steel, cement and motor vehicle re-exports.
Mr Mold said South Sudan economy is vulnerable, as it has suffered several shocks simultaneously.
“Firstly, even before the global pandemic, the South Sudanese economy was already vulnerable, with high levels of poverty and food insecurity—around 80 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line,” he said.
South Sudan has also been hit by severe flooding in the last few months, that killed livestock, destroyed food stocks and damaged crops ahead of the main harvest season.
Declining oil prices have also affected South Sudan as this is Juba’s main foreign exchange earner. In addition, high inflation rates have made the economy more vulnerable.