Members of Parliament have asked the government to tackle the insecurity at Uganda- South Sudan border which has worsened since the attack on Ugandan traders by South Sudan soldiers in 2021.
This followed a report presented by the Chairperson of the Committee on East African Community Affairs.
In 2021 it was reported that a total of 28 truck drivers had been attacked and killed and 16 trucks carrying goods from Uganda to South Sudan were burnt down.
Following those attacks, the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah directed the Committees of Foreign Affairs and East African Community Affairs to undertake an oversight visit and appraise the House on the security situation at the border.
While presenting their report, the Chairperson of the Committee on East African Community Affairs, Noeline Basemera Kisembo told the House that insecurity at the border has not ceased and that Ugandans continue to lose their lives and property.
“The truck drivers indicated that the security situation along the Juba-Nimule route has not improved much despite the diplomatic engagements between the Government of Uganda and South Sudan,” said Kisembo.
Kisembo said that the relationships between Uganda and South Sudan are still fragile adding that this was evident when the MPs on the two committees were accosted by the South Sudan security forces on the Ugandan side.
“During the oversight visit, the South Sudan soldiers had set up security check and detention points on the Ugandan side where a Ugandan was being held. The SSPDF even attempted to block members of the committees from accessing the area,” said Kisembo.
Kisembo added that they were dismayed to establish that the South Sudan soldiers interfere in government projects in Uganda.
“The local authorities of Amuru district informed the committee that South Sudan forces had interfered with and delayed the construction process of the Aswa hydropower plant on Aswa River near Lamwo, which is clearly on the Uganda side of the border claiming that the river falls in the territory of South Sudan,” she said.
The committees recommended that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and East African Community Affairs should intensify engagements with the Government of South Sudan at both bilateral and regional levels to ensure the safety and security of Ugandans operating within South Sudan.
“The diplomatic engagements should be continuous until the safety and security of the Ugandans is guaranteed,” Kisembo added.
The committees in their report also call expeditious the completion of the Joint border demarcation process with South Sudan in order to protect Uganda’s territorial integrity and mitigate the security threats posed by incursions by South Sudan armed forces into the Ugandan territory.
“The border demarcation exercise should be conducted jointly by the two countries and should be informed by the existing treaties, orders, colonial maps and coordinates to lessen the possibility of conflicts in the process of validating boundary points,” the report adds.
MPs further urged the Government to address the poor relationship with South Sudan saying that even Ugandans who live in Juba have been harassed over baseless grounds.
Legislators observed that South Sudan has been and remains a potential market for Uganda, a reason the government must take heed and stabilize the relationship.
“South Sudan is one of us and we have a responsibility in helping them build their house. We need to make the East African Community real and get it off paper. Integration is what you need to solve the issues that we have with South Sudan”, said Aogon Silas the Kumi Municipality MP.
“Over the years, the security situation along the Uganda-South Sudan border has been appalling; I want to ask the Government that knowing what South Sudan is, we should continuously engage them and support them so that we stabilize the region,” said Tonny Ayoo (NRM, Kwania County).
UPDF representative, Gen Henry Masiko said there is a need to engage the East African Legislative Assembly to amplify the need to integrate not only on business but also on security.
“We should lobby members of the East African legislature to start talking passionately about the misfortunes of the East Africa integration. I am appealing that let us increase our voice on what our medicine will be,” said Masiko.
In response, John Mulimba the Minister of State for Regional Affairs told the house that the Government of Uganda is doing all it takes to build the capacity to deal with security threats in the Republic of South Sudan to maximize the benefits, especially in trade.