By Anne Mugisa
The Uganda Government has demanded that South Sudan investigates the reported harassment and killings of Ugandans in Sudan mainly boda-boda operators targeted after a government decree banning their operations.
There were reports of harassments, killings and confiscations of the property of Ugandans including boda-bodas. This was followed by mass exodus of the riders back to Uganda.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa, is set to travel to South Sudan, next month, over the issue.
However, the South Sudan Ambassador to Uganda, Samuel Luate Lominsuk, defended his country’s banning of foreign boda-boda operators saying that they were importing criminality there.
He said many of them committed robberies, murders, ferried criminals, snatch women’s handbags, operate illegally and blatantly refuse to obey traffic regulations.
Addressing a press conference at the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lominsuk said the order by his Interior Minister for the ban was legitimate but that it was misinterpreted by individuals and the media.
However, Uganda’s foreign affairs State Minister, Asuman Kiyingi, said his quarrel with the action of South Sudan Government lies with the implementation of the directive.
“It was sudden, with no transition arrangements for those affected to return home.
The family of Tom Masaba, a driver who was shot dead during an ambush in South Sudan. PHOTO/Samuel Balagadde
He said that Uganda has compiled a list of the complaints and the said victims and forwarded it to the Government South Sudan which has promised to address them. He said that some boda-bodas have been returned to their owners.
Lominsuk complained that Ugandans rose and attacked Sudanese living in Uganda following the incident. He cited places like Makindye, Zana, Mukono and Ntinda where he said citizens of South Sudan.
“In the view of the embassy of South Sudan, these attacks, harassments and beatings were fuelled by misinformed individuals with misguided information who claimed that the South Sudan Government had kicked out all Ugandan nationals doing business in South Sudan,” Lominsuk said.
“This misinformation came as a result of the ministerial order issued in South Sudan banning all boda-boda riders there as a result of continuous accidents and criminal activities… The order was not in anyway meant for only Ugandan citizens but for every foreigner operating such a Bod-Boda business in South Sudan.”
There were also legal reasons, he said, which included lack of documentation which hampered verification in case of crimes and being used as gateway means by thugs.
He added that there were numerous accidents resulting in deaths and multiple injuries and hospitals were overwhelmed by boda-boda accidents victims.
“The people of South Sudan are not accustomed to such behaviors, murders and stealing from each other or for that matter from anybody. However, some of the South Sudanese also have learnt directly from these imported scenarios.
South Sudan marked its first anniversary of its independence in Juba on July 9, 2012. PHOTO/Reuters
He said that his government has never heard of attacks, beatings, harassments of its citizens in neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo yet their nationals were also affected.
“Where is the crime that the Government of South Sudan has committed in order to warrant this unfortunate situation?” he asked.
He denied knowledge of any Ugandans killed in South Sudan except those who have died in criminal activity. He challenged anybody with information of murders of Ugandans to forward it to him so that it can get investigated.
Sources close to diplomatic circles revealed a big list of the victims of torture and harassment in South Sudan following the directive, some of whom died.
A few of them include Asuman Abenaitwe, Boaz Ahimbisibwe, Jamil Munyaga, Moses Kazibwe, Zubeil Alaru, and Hassan Brigen. Two of those who died include Borohan Amis and Bukenya Gonzaga.
Lominsuk said that there could have been some individuals who took the law into their own hands following the directive but that it was instigated by government.
He said that his government is committed to protecting its citizens as well as those conducting lawful business activities in its territory.
He said Uganda and South Sudan are sisterly and brotherly countries and that his country wants to maintain that relationship.
Kiyingi also said that whether it is a Ugandan taking the law into their hands against South Sudanese or Sudanese doing the same to Ugandans, it is condemnable.