Uganda: Violence: Ugandans Blocked From Travelling to Juba

Police yesterday announced the security agencies will not allow travellers to South Sudan following resumption of fighting at the weekend that has left an estimated 300 people dead.

Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, told journalists at police Headquarters in Naguru in Kampala that joint meeting of police, army and other security agencies held at the weekend, resolved that Ugandans be restricted from travelling to South Sudan because of the fragile security situation.

"Following the repeated gunfights in Juba and other provinces, the police and its sister security agencies cautioned business persons and general public against travelling to South Sudan due to the tense and potentially dangerous security situation," Mr Enanga said.

He said so far two bodies of Ugandans killed in Juba have been repatriated.

Dr Ben Chandinga, a 35-year-old pharmacist and resident of Oriya village, Pakele Sub-county in Adjumani District, and Ceasar Batele, 39, a UN driver from Terego Sub-county, Arua District, were killed at the weekend.

Mr Enanga said security had been tightened at the border posts of Nimule and Elegu and the movements across the borders regulated.

However, he was uncertain about the number of refugees who have already crossed into Uganda since the fighting began.

By yesterday, more than 300 Ugandans had been evacuated by road.

Mr Enanga said they were liaising with the Foreign Affairs ministry for the possible continued evacuation of Ugandans who are still stuck in Juba.

"We are advising Ugandans stranded in fighting to run to our embassy for their security or other places where security is better," the police spokesperson said.

Mr Anthony Adama, the first secretary at the Ugandan embassy in Juba, told Daily Monitor that he and his colleagues could not move out of their houses to buy food and water due to intense fighting.

At least 150,000 Ugandans are said to be working in South Sudan.

The State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Musa Ecweru, has directed security agents to step up screening exercise at all the borders with South Sudan.

Speaking to the South Sudanese refugees at Nyumanzi Transit Centre on Sunday, Mr Ecweru said as a result of the fresh clashes in South Sudan, some wrong elements may decide to sneak into Uganda with dangerous weapons and military attires.

The minister, however, assured the refugees that Uganda would continue to protect and host them until peace returns to their country.

He advised the refugees to surrender any weapon in their possession to the police before they are apprehended.

Fresh fighting broke out in South Sudan last week among soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and the first Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, putting the peace agreement signed last year in jeopardy.

"We shall not repatriate those who will go against the laws of Uganda back to South Sudan but rather lock them in our jail to act as deterrent measure to people planning to commit crime," Mr Ecweru said.

However, an immigration official at Elegu border, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, told this newspaper on Sunday evening that they got information that South Sudanese security officials are blocking some of their citizens from fleeing Juba to portray a sense of calmness in the country. "We got information that some people who are fleeing Juba have been returned by South Sudan on grounds that they want to show the world the country is secure yet it is not," he said.

Since Friday last week, when violence erupted in Juba, buses plying the Kampala-Juba route have stopped business.

There were no buses at Arua Park, Kampala on Monday, where buses going to South Sudan park to get passengers.

A booking staff working with Diplomat Coaches Limited stationed at Arua Park, said most buses which left on Saturday are still at Elegu border, while others have returned to Kampala.

"It's so risky, we can't go to Juba. We care about our staff who travel in these buses, and our customers, and our company property can easily be destroyed," he said, adding: "A businessman is always calculating what he earns on a daily basis. We are making loses."

Mr Afeti Marvin, an employee of Crown Coaches Limited, said they have been informed that no vehicle is allowed to enter or leave South Sudan except UN vehicles.

Mr Afeti said at Elegu border "passengers wishing to continue to South Sudan use private transport while those wishing to return to Kampala are ferried back."

Source: The Monitor