Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandan Security agencies have tasked their counterparts in South Sudan to beef up security along the Nimule-Juba Highway.
The call comes in the wake of resurgence of insecurity that left a Ugandan and a South Sudanese national dead on Tuesday in Lowa Pageri County, Aswa village some 18 km north of Nimule Town.
Police identified the deceased as Lydia Namono 23, a waitress from Sironko district who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in an ambush.
The deceased was travelling in a Toyota Noah car registration number SSD 438AN from Juba city to Nimule Town with other nine occupants when the incident happened.
Two other passengers who sustained injuries in the shooting are being treated at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu Town according to police reports.
Brig Richard Karemeire, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces [UPDF] spokesperson says that they are liaising with South Sudan officials to ensure the major trade route to Juba is safe.
“We have taken interest in what happened on Tuesday and thus we are urging the South Sudan security personnel to do whatever it takes to ensure the people playing the Nimule-Juba Highway are safe,” Brig Karemeire said.
Brig Karemeire, however, advised Ugandans travelling to war-torn South Sudan to be cautious saying their safety only lies in the hands of South Sudan Security teams once they are out of Uganda.
“Security can only be guaranteed by South Sudan government once you are in their country.
Their government has committed itself to ensuring peace and thus it’s their mandate,” he said.
“We don’t have UPDF in South Sudan who can be deployed to protect the Ugandan Citizens there, I can assure them of being protected when they are here,” He added.
The Tuesday incident has left many Ugandan traders, passengers and drivers in panic while others have since Tuesday camped at the bustling Elegu Town council in Amuru District fearing to cross into South Sudan.
Michael Tokoma, a businessman at Elegu Town council in Amuru District says hundreds of people from especially Adjumani district have camped at Elegu Town council fearing to cross into South Sudan.
“We have some traders and drivers here who are afraid to cross into south Sudan; they fear that they may be targeted by some lawless individuals along Juba-Nimule Highway. They want reassurance from their army and police that they will be safe once in south Sudan,” Tokoma said.
Nimule-Juba Highway is a major international trade route between Uganda and South Sudan.
Statistics from Uganda Revenue Authority-URA indicates trade volumes in terms of exports through Elegu border post grew from 225.2 Billion shillings while imports have grown from 500 million to 1.2Billion shillings.
More than 200 trucks and 7 buses currently ply the route to South Sudan.
But the route has in the recent past been plagued by series of ambushes carried out by armed militias resulting into death of many Ugandans ever since resurgence of violence in July 2016 tension broke out between loyalists president Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar.
In June 2017, five Ugandans were shot dead after being ambushed by suspected militias at Moli village, about 140 kilometres from Juba.