By Moses Walubiri
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade and Industry Ambassador Julius Onen has waded into the touchy debate about South Sudan’s recent edict expelling Ugandans dabbling in petty trade labeling it “understandable.”
Onen, while interfacing with legislators on the Public Accounts Committee to answer queries highlighted in different reports of the Auditor General about his ministry, stopped short of faulting Ugandans for lacking the foresight to realize that South Sudanese authorities were bound to draw a curtain on their petty trade at some point.
“The petty trade that Ugandans have been doing in South Sudan should have been a temporary venture,” Onen said in response to queries by Wamai Wamanga about alleged maltreatment of Ugandans in Africa’s youngest country, adding:
“You cannot have citizens of a different country finding a niche in petty trade in another country.”
Onen told riled legislators that those “Ugandans transacting in serious export trade in South Sudan are experiencing no problems.”
Since it gained independence two years ago, Ugandans have dominated South Sudan’s informal sector with the simmering subsequent disquiet from the locals recently forcing South Sudanese authorities to give a one month ultimatum for Ugandan petty traders to leave the country.
As a result of the large number of Ugandan traders in South Sudan, government at one time toyed with the idea of erecting a modern market in Juba – before reservations by technocrats in Ministry of Trade, according to Onen, scuttled the venture.
As thousands of Ugandans – especially boda boda riders – left Sudan helter-skelter, they were allegedly attacked and dispossessed of their property forcing President Yoweri Museveni’s intervention through his counterpart Salva Kiir.