Illegal Roadblocks by thugs to be removed on S. Sudan’s highways as truck drivers end strike.
Illegal checkpoints will be removed from South Sudan’s highways to ease the movement of trucks as the truck drivers agreed to end strikes.
Kenyan and Ugandan truck drivers say thugs mounting illegal roadblocks on South Sudan’s main highway give them nightmares every time they have an assignment in the country.
The thugs, often gunmen, have been looting, maiming or killing drivers, and sometimes burning their vehicles. “We are used to roadblocks mounted by the police. This is routine in Kenya and Uganda. In South Sudan, you can’t be sure if they are police or thugs,” Mr. David Masinde, chair of the Kenya Drivers Association, explained on Wednesday.
But, Ugandan and Kenyan truck drivers reached an agreement with the South Sudan & Uganda government and will commence cargo delivery to South Sudan after two days of negotiations.
South Sudan relies on the highway that runs from the Nimule border with Uganda to Juba for supply of food, petroleum products and other imported goods from Kenya and Uganda or beyond. It is one of the few tarmacked roads in the country but the traffic also attracts criminals.
Juba-Nimule, South Sudan’s first ever highway, was built in 2012, just two years after the country gained independence from Sudan after 21 years of brutal civil wars.
The 192-kilometer road was built using a grant from the government of the United States.
The road, known as Highway A in Juba, continues southward towards Nimule as Highway A43.
Juba-Nimule Highway connects the capital of South Sudan to the border with Uganda, the main route Kenyan drivers use to ferry transit goods to South Sudan.
Since conflict broke out in 2013 and 2016, many South Sudan border highways were closed due to insecurity, leaving Juba-Nimule Highway as the only route through which the country receives goods.
The drivers now say they will be dumping the goods at the border warehouses in South Sudan until their security is guaranteed. The outcome could be delayed deliveries and suffering for businesses.
Security not guaranteed
Dennis Ombok, chief executive of the Kenya Transporters Association, the lobby for truck owners, said they advised members to avoid the highway as “there is no guaranteed security”.
“Transporters are advised to withdraw their services with immediate effect until security is guaranteed. [To] those already on the way, we advise that you arrange for your clients to collect their goods at the customs yard at the Elegu border,” Mr Ombok said in a notice to members.
Ugandan truck drivers also announced that they will stop transporting cargo to South Sudan due to rising insecurity along major highways. Their lobby said on Wednesday that eight members had been killed along Yei-Juba road.
While appealing for heightened security, Mr Masinde said: “We are ambassadors of Kenya when we are out there. We need help from the government. The South Sudan highways are especially dangerous. Perhaps regular security escorts will be needed.”
He added: “The incident in which our two colleagues were killed involved a road block at which they stopped thinking they were being regularly checked. It had actually been mounted by gunmen.”
Last week, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry said stranded drivers should contact the embassy in Juba for assistance. In the meantime, however, it advised drivers not to use the highway.
But after two days of discussions, the South Sudanese government agreed to provide security to all truck drivers plying the main highways linking the two countries.
The SSPDF will now station soldiers along the roads connecting Juba to Nimule, to Yei up to Kaya –to ensure safe passage for travelers and commercial goods.
Though Judging from the past, in August last year, the Juba police service said it arrested eight suspects in connection with last week’s attack on a passenger vehicle along Juba-Nimule Highway. Nobody has been prosecuted to date.
The truck driver according to their leader hope that the new agreement will be implemented fully within the next ninety days so that they can peacefully carry out their day-to-day business.