Archive
Uganda-Sudan border dispute:Is there still room for customary boundaries?
Publish Date: Jan 04, 2010
Newvision Archive
  • mail
  • img

By Dradenya Amazia

THE border conflict between Uganda and Sudan is not all about the international boundaries marked during the British colonial rule in the 1880’s.The Sudanese are claiming customary boundary from the Madi and Aringa people in Uganda.

“We cannot take advantage of the colonial era to take somebody’s God-given land,” says James Janka Duku, a member of parliament in Southern Sudan.

However, Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda state minister for international affairs, says all the people of northern Uganda originated from Sudan and none of the tribes would go back to claim their ancestral land.

citing the Sebei of Uganda and Kenya, he says: “Customary boundaries are not recognised, that is why there are people of the same tribe in two or more countries.”

The Sudanese are accusing the Madi of Moyo and Yumbe districts in Uganda of extending their administrative structures inside their land.

The commissioner of Kajo-Keji county in Southern Sudan, Muki Batali Buli, says Kuku has over 15km stretch of land in Uganda.

The claim, that puts Moyo Town Council, parts of Metu and Lefori sub-counties in Moyo and Midigo in Yumbe districts under contest, was protested by Uganda’s leaders.

“That is rubbish, it is null and void,” says Dominic Vuga, an opinion leader in Moyo district.

Muki says their land extends from Karido River in Sudan to Kelenderia, through Opiro, behind Moyo Secondary School, to Ebikwa River, and Seleseleya to Leya from the east.

“This continues westwards to West Eria Hill, Lefori and down to Wano, Sera Jale and Lobulele,” Muki says.
“One of our grandfathers told us Moyo was not a Madi name. It was derived from an Arabic word for water (moyo) when an Arab soldier demanded for water from a Madi citizen behind the present Stanbic Bank, in the heart of Moyo town.”

Peter Iku Dolo, Moyo LC5 chairman, says: “It is ridiculous to claim Moyo town as part of Sudanese-owned land.”

Philip Kenyi, a 79-year-old resident of Limi, says the conflict between Madi began in 1916 when the colonialists moved the four clans of Moijo, Litoba, Limi and Louba to Kabi, inside Sudan due to the outbreak of sleeping sickness.

“The Madi moved in and occupied large parts of Moijo by shifting the traditional border to Kayo. When they returned, they found their land occupied, an event that marked the beginning of the uneasy co-existence,” Kenyi says.

He adds that the land of Limi stretched from Lego River to Cholowa in Lefori sub-county, Larson Pachiga to Obi River near Goopi in Metu sub-county.

To Philip Idro, Uganda’s former ambassador to China, the Sudanese claims are new.

“The issues are sentimental. Some of them are historical, traditional and colonial,” he says.

Muki says Yumbe administration recently evicted the people of Liwolo in a place called Kilaji. He also claims: “In 2000, an organised force from Uganda without any justification, attacked and killed innocent civilians in Ajio Boma. Properties were destroyed,” Muki asserts.

However, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF spokesperson, says he does not remember a time when Ugandan forces attacked the Sudanese in the area.

Duku, a South Sudan MP, says Ugandans have systematically been grabbing Sudanese land by constructing roads and planting signposts in which they eventually settle.

“The administrations of Moyo and Yumbe local district councils have settled their citizens in Kuku lands without consulting the land owners or the county administration in Kajo-Keji,” he says.
Duku cites the occupation of Goboro by people mainly from Yumbe district and Abaya to Bamure by settlers from Moyo district.

“The new occupants are engaged in activities suggesting intentions to settle in these lands permanently. Most important is their engagement in illicit tree logging and charcoal burning, which are hazardous to environment,” Duku says.

Dolo, Moyo LC5 chairperson, says: “It is the Sudanese, who are trying to grab Bamure from Moyo district. The Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) came and settled at Bamure during their struggle against the Sudan government but this land belongs to the Madi in Moyo district.”

However, Muki of South Sudan claims: “During the struggle in 1966, the forces of Uganda Rifles, in collaboration with Sudanese forces, launched a combined attack on the Anyanya fighters from Kochi, through Mi’digo to Keriwa.”

He adds that the authorities of Yumbe district are setting up their administration over a territor, which legitimately belong to the Liwolo people.
Muki says the road project at Afoji was started in 2005 by Ugandan authorities before the return of the Sudanese to their country.
“We cannot be Sudanese and have our land in another country. That is unacceptable.” Duku warns.

Doctor Dominic Lali, a veterinary officer in Moyo, says the disputed areas of Gbari, Bamure, Goboro and Midigo should be left to the two governments to handle.
“According to the Constitution, the Kuku in Uganda pay allegiance to the Ugandan government, not Sudan,” he says.

In 2005, the Sudanese authorities halted a multi-million road construction at Afoji because farmers claimed ownership of the land.
In August 2009, armed Sudanese attacked and stopped the MTN construction work at Jale. In September, another group of armed Sudanese attacked and forced farmers to uproot their crops in Gwere parish in Lefori sub-county near Bamure. Ugandans accused the Sudanese Wild Life Authority of settling 5km inside their country at Pa anjala in Dufile sub-county.

However, on their recent visit to Moyo on November 24, President Yoweri Museveni and his Southern Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir, directed that the road and MTN mast construction continue.
They advised the local people to fight poverty, not over a small piece of land.

Maj.Gen. Clement Wani, the governor of Central Equatoria State of South Sudan, says the road and MTN construction should resume as directed by the two presidents.
“If the road or MTN construction is completed and found to be in Sudan, then that will be Uganda’s contribution to Sudan. If it is found to be in Uganda, then we shall all benefit from it,” he says.

“We consider the foregoing issues to be the main cause of the misunderstanding between the Kuku and their neighbours Moyo and Yumbe districts.”

Wani says before Southern Sudan sucedes from the north, they cannot talk of demarcation of international boundaries.

“Pray that by 2011, we shall have become an independent country so that we handle the border issues with Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he says.
Okello Oryem says the issue of the international border should be left to President Yoweri Museveni and Hassan Omar El Bashir to handle.

He, however, says: “Our worry is whether president Bashir will respond to this call urgently. We are asking the elders from the two countries to continue dialoguing to reduce the tension.

However, Paul Bua, the LC3 chairperson of Lefori sub-county, says the Sudanese elders do not understand the importance of international boundaries. “We raised the matter to higher authorities because they do not understand. How can we handle this?

Willliam Iwa, an elder in Moyo, says the issue cannot easily be handled because the Sudanese do not want to listen.

“We do not want a situation, where people start killing each other over land,” Oryem says.

The Ugandans and Sudanese authorities have scheduled January 16 to get feedback from elders in Moyo Multi-purpose Training School.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
FORMER president Dr. Apollo Milton Obote has been honoured for his distinguished service to Busoga College Mwiri and the nation....
THE Ministry of Health has appealed to religious groups to counsel men to stop having extramarital sex to stem the raising rates of HIV infections....
THE Chinese community in Uganda on Tuesday celebrated their 62nd independence anniversary....
MAKERERE University has sued the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) over a sh16.7b pension savings package it claims the insurance giant owes it....
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni will lead the alumni of the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Uganda to a fundraising drive targeting sh1b for the Tanzania-based institution....
THE UPDF officers, dressed in neatly pressed uniforms complete with gleaming black boots, took to the podium, many accompanied by their spouses. Then, they were decorated....
Do you think banning the sale of single cigarette sticks will help regulate tobacco production?
yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter