East African Business Council tells EAC to deploy joint army patrols on South Sudan roads

Two SPLA soldiers guard the bridge that divides South Sudan and Uganda. The Ugandan police say they have tightened their borders and aren’t letting many through. (L. Paulat/VOA)

The East African regional business and private sector watchdog on Monday urged the EAC to create and deploy regional joint army patrols for escorting and protecting truck drivers amid cross-border trade impasse over insecurity.

The East African Business Council said in a statement that the EAC member states of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan should convene its EAC Sectoral Council on Interstate Security in order to consider the deployment of the regional joint army patrols.

“A joint regional army patrol is a quick solution to guarantee peace and security for truck drivers, business people and their properties,” the statement said.

The council said the deployment of the army escort patrols will ease and facilitate the transportation of essential goods due to insecurity in South Sudan, especially along the Nimule-Elegu border route to Juba.

This has resulted in over 1,056 trucks getting stranded along the border, risking the spread of Covid-19 to border communities.

This even as it emerged that truck drivers from Kenya and Uganda were protesting over the increased killings along the Juba-Nimble highway.

Insecurity along the Nimule-Elegu border route to Juba has currently stalled movement by around 1056 trucks, stranded at the Elegu border post. Part of the problem is that this immobility risks intensifying the spread of COVID-19 among the border communities as well as the truckers, it stated.

As the main gateway into Southern Sudan from the port of Mombasa, the Nimule-Elegu border post is of strategic importance to the EAC region. Nimule is located in Magwi county, Imatong State, South Sudan, immediately north of the International border with Uganda.

This is not the first time the insecurity cases are being reported.

On May 3, four Kenyan long-distance cargo truck drivers and two loaders were kidnapped by unknown gunmen at Terekeka town in South Sudan.

The kidnappers demanded 15 million South Sudan pounds (about Sh4.8 million) in exchange for the freedom of the captives.

In April, the Kenya Transporters Association warned all foreign truckers planning to drive to South Sudan against using Juba-Nimule/ Yei highway due to the insecurity along the major roads.

Kenyans are not targeted in South Sudan, says Ambassador Ajongo

Associations CEO, Dennis Ombok, said the decision followed reports of the killing of two Kenyans in South Sudan in an ambush along Juba-Nimule highway. Two went missing.

“Following increased incidences of insecurity, murder and violent crimes against foreign drivers, such as the killing and burning of drivers and the setting ablaze of trucks currently being witnessed in South Sudan, we wish to advise transporters not to use the Yei-Juba Road as there is no guaranteed security,” a note by Ombok said.

The South Sudan government accused a rebel group known as the National Salvation Front of being behind the killings but NAS denied the claim.

Following the attacks, Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, raised concerns over attacks on Kenyans.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the attack against Kenyan truck drivers operating on the Juba Namule Road had resulted in several fatalities and multiple injuries.

“The government advises Kenyans in South Sudan and particularly transporters using Yei Juba Road to exercise increased caution and avoid use of this route where possible.”

But in an interview with KTN in June, South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo said he considers the reported cases of violence against Kenyans in South Sudan as isolated.

“We are always getting complaints from Kenya but perhaps the only difference is that South Sudanese are not complaining. As ambassador, I can tell you there are so many cases of harassment of South Sudanese in Kenya. But we don’t take it as Kenyans versus us,” Ambassador Ajongo said during The Diplomat interview.

Envoy Kalonzo meets with South Sudan leadership as more Kenyan drivers attacked in Juba

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