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Uganda, S.Sudan border clashes keep farmers from gardens

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hundreds of farmers in Lokung sub-county in Lamwo district have failed to access their farmlands at the contentious Uganda-South Sudan border point.

This follows clashes between Uganda People Defense Forces-UPDF soldiers and South Sudan People’s Defense Forces at Otwilo in Pangira parish near Ngomoromo border post. The UPDF shot dead two South Sudan People’s Defense Forces soldiers and captured one alive with three guns.

Joachin Ocan Opoka, the Lokung sub county chairperson says many farmers whose crops are due for harvesting are currently unable to access their farmlands over the fear of instability at the disputed boundary. Opoka says that the fertile farmlands are in Oyoma, Aparapadwanya, Loremo and Otwilo largely on Ugandan territory.

However, some of the farmers have been hiring farmlands in Pogee, Magwi County on the South Sudan territory. Opoka says that crops such as maize, sim-sim, millet and groundnuts are wasting away while others are reportedly being looted by pockets of armed South Sudan elements loitering on the disputed boundary.

“Many farmers have expressed fears of going to harvest their crops because they are uncertain about their security while in the garden. We have also got reports that crops which are ready for harvest are being looted by armed men from South Sudan,” Opoka says.

Opoka fears that the situation could lead to food insecurity and added that normal traffic flows along the once busy route has also subsided in the past few days following last week’s clashes.

John Charles Omony, a farmer in Loremo and resident of Lamwo town council says his sim-sim is now ready for harvest but expressed fear that he can’t cross Ngomoromo border to harvest it for fear of being harassed. Omony has asked the army at the border point to provide security for farmers to enable them to harvest their farm produce without them getting wasted or looted.

Lamwo Resident District Commissioner James Nabinson Kidega confirmed to Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Monday that many farmers are no longer going to their gardens for fear of being attacked. He however says they are considering providing security personnel to escort the farmers in groups to ensure they easily access their farmlands if the situation proves hostile to them.

“Its true people are afraid, but things are under control. For the farmers, we are arranging with them such that if they are in deep fear over their safety, we shall escort them with security up to their gardens,” says Kidega.

He notes that his office has already contacted their counterparts in South Sudan to restrain any pockets of soldiers within the disputed grounds from harming innocent farmers who intend to harvest their crops. Kidega says security personnel from the two countries are expected to hold a dialogue meeting next week.

In a press statement released on Sunday, Lt Deo Akiiki, the UPDF Deputy Spokesperson says the ministries of foreign affairs and Defence of the two sister countries are working closely to address the anomaly at the border.

He also revealed that diplomatic engagements by relevant stakeholders are ongoing to complete the re-demarcation and reaffirmation of the common border to forestall future conflicts between Uganda and South Sudan.



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