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Rape, extortion frustrate Uganda-South Sudan traders

Women traders have raised complaints of being sexually assaulted by armed security personnel along Uganda-South Sudan border. 

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Female traders involved in cross border trade between Uganda-South Sudan have raised a red flag on sexual violence and extortion at security checkpoints along the Nimule-Juba highway. The women say they are sexually assaulted by armed security personnel along Elegu and Nimule borders.

The conduct of the security personnel is frustrating efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease-COVID-19 despite the enforcement of stringent restrictions to combat the contagion. While Uganda has recorded 36,922 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 274 deaths since March 2020, South Sudan has registered 62 deaths and 3,455 confirmed cases.

Yemima Semira Elisama, the Chairperson of Nimule Women Cross Border Trader’s Association says that due to the biting effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures, some traders were forced to smuggle goods through the porous borders from where 12 of them were raped.

Speaking to URN in an interview on Monday, Yemima explained that their association says that three members from her association were raped and impregnated but have remained silent because of stigma.

Her Ugandan counterpart, Margaret Auma from Elegu Cross Border Women Traders Association says that three members of her association were also raped by armed gangs at the border.

The errant armed gunmen believed to be from the South Sudan army and opposition forces also mount illicit security checkpoints from where they extort money from long-distance cargo truckers. Moses Lubega, a trucker from Uganda reveals that on several occasions, the gunmen extort from him between 1,000 – 2,000 South Sudanese Pounds, about Shillings 55,000 from each trip that he makes to Juba.

James Mutabazi, another trucker says several truckers are waylaid at the roadblocks and forced to pay large sums of money or risk their trucks being impounded and parked for several days. Several other businessmen have been kidnapped for ransoms or killed en-route to South Sudan.

The security checkpoints are normally mounted around Aswa, Pageri, Opari, Keripi, Amee and Obama near Aruu Junction before Jebelen-Nissitu in Central Equatorial Province along Nimule – Juba highway.

But John Bosco Kaliisa, the country representative of TradeMark East Africa-TMEA in South Sudan notes that such trade barriers are expected in the country bedeviled by a long history of armed conflicts. He revealed that a safe trade protocol is being devised to put an end to such barriers.

The South Sudan National Police Spokesperson, Maj. Gen Daniel Justin said he needed more time to investigate the matter. The South Sudan Undersecretary in the Ministry of East African Affairs, Athian Kuol Mou Mou said they haven’t received any formal complaints from the traders.

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