GULU –Three cargo truck drivers were arrested on Tuesday as authorities concocted means of silencing a demonstration at the Uganda-South Sudan border point of Elegu.
The suspects include a Somali national and two Ugandans, who are believed to be the ringer leaders of the chaos that erupted between cargo drivers and authorities from both sides of the border point, which resulted from the increment in taxes charged on in and out-bound vehicles.
Hundreds of cargo truck drivers rose up in arms on Monday – protesting hiked taxes levied on vehicles and goods entering and exiting the country, extortion on the side of South Sudan authorities as well as insecurity along the Nimule-Juba highway.
The strike that had entered the second day on Tuesday however turned rowdy after drivers delivering perishable goods demanded to cross into South Sudan while their counterparts insisted on maintaining the standoff.
Stephen Odong Latek -the Amuru Resident District Commissioner said the suspects attempted to incite all cargo truck drivers to maintain the strike – ignoring the fact that others had perishable goods and the right to use the road. He said police had to intervene to quell the standoff between the drivers, which had paralysed normal business at the busy border point.
Jacob Kawa, a driver along the Nimule-Juba highway noted, earlier that the charges for trucks entering and exiting the country had recently doubled from the $30 to $75 per truck, adding that besides the documented fees, cases of extortion as well as attacks on drivers were rampant along the Nimule-Juba highway.
“What is happening along the Nimule-Juba highway is gross theft by South Sudanese officials. There are several roadblocks along the highway and at each of them; one has to pay money by force,” he revealed.
The suspects are detained at Elegu Police Station, pending investigations and preference of charges against, according to sources.
Latek said that traffic had been directed to resume at the border point into South Sudan – arguing that the strike will be voluntary for truckers who intend to remain on the Ugandan side.
He revealed that a delegation of Ugandans would meet their South Sudanese counterparts from the customs and immigration as well as security dockets to harmonise on complaints the drivers had raised.
Drivers said the South Sudan authorities had doubled the existing taxes while the security situation on the highway between Nimule and Juba was unbearable.
Hassan Abdi – a trucker from Kenya, who had spent a day at Elegu following the strike, said he usually spends about $150 on security personnel while delivering fuel to Juba. He said the vice along the Nimule-Juba highway had made transport very expensive and unrealistic for business – calling for the intervention from both Ugandan and South Sudan authorities.
Bosco Wali – the Manager of BLD parking at Elegu Town Council where hundreds of truckers had parked their vehicles, said that whereas other trailers had voluntarily left, many were still hesitant to cross to south Sudan.
“The situation has normalised and truck drivers are now crossing into South Sudan. There are however some, who have refused to go and want to maintain the strike,” said Wali.
Additional reporting by URN