South Sudanese insurgents conducted deadly attacks on truck drivers transporting merchandise to turbulent South Sudan, stranding hundreds of freight trucks at the Elegu border crossing in northern Uganda. Truck drivers from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have been on strike for more than a week, protesting the lack of protection along the border-crossing highway. On April 4, two truckers were stoned, killed, and burnt beyond recognition along the Juba-Yei highway, as part of a series of attacks that killed nine Kenyan and Ugandan drivers. Unknown militants came from the jungle and vandalized and set fire to their vehicles. Wanyama Ngon, a truck driver from Juba, narrowly avoided death last week.
“It was gruesome. I saw a new truck, which was behind me being stoned. I had to speed off. It is so sad that my colleague died and was torched,” Ngon said.
“I have been here since Thursday. My mileage allowance is depleted. The food sold in Elegu cannot sustain thousands of us stranded here. We have been forced to go without food,” said trucker Juma Boy. “This is the third time we are experiencing such attacks, but this time it is too much,” said Boy, who has been ferrying petroleum from Kenya to Juba for the last 10 years “We have no interest in Juba land politics, why are they targeting us?”
After a string of attacks on foreign drivers transporting freight to Juba, moving into South Sudan is like crossing into hell. The Kenya Transport Association, known as KTA, and the Long Distance Drivers and Conductors Association of Kenya, known as LODDCA, laid down their tools and set up camp at the Elegu border, requesting protection before crossing. Although the reasons for the attacks are unclear, truckers say that anti-government rebels and civilian officers opposed to South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit are targeting truckers to disrupt services in the country.
Foreign truckers have released a statement calling for peace and focusing on protective measures from the South Sudanese government. The LODDCA chairperson, Antony Mutua, has requested that the Kenyan government instantly cease all operations with South Sudan until security is reinstated and an apology is issued to the drivers who were killed.
“The killings annoy us, it saddens us as LODDCA, and we demand that our Kenyan government immediately suspends cross-border operations with South Sudan,” Mutua said.
Margaret Baba Diri, a Koboko Member of Parliament, has called on the concerned governments to intervene.
“The Sudanese are leading a peaceful life in Uganda. We don’t kill them. This issue is very painful. South Sudan should act immediately,” she said.
In 2016, the pro-government troops in South Sudan who had defeated the rebels in the capital, Juba, went on a four-hour spree in a foreigner-populated part of the region. They murdered many foreigners, most of whom were Americans, assaulted women, and shot and killed a foreign journalist. About 1,000 people, police forces, and insurgents have been killed in ambush attacks in the last year.
“Armed actors committed serious abuses, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including aid workers, unlawful killings, beatings, arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence, looting and destruction of property,” states a 2020 report by Human Rights Watch.
“Some abuses make up war crimes and crimes against humanity. All sides restricted access to the United Nations, ceasefire monitors, and aid workers. The report states that since the conflict started in December 2013, “over 4 million people have fled their homes, with 2.1 million taking refuge in neighboring countries.”