Truckers Protest Hiked Charges, Insecurity in South Sudan

Truck drivers have staged a protest at the Uganda-South Sudan border point of Elegu in Amuru District over an increment of taxes charged on vehicles entering and exiting South Sudan.

Hundreds of cargo trucks were Tuesday parked at the busy border point with the drivers refusing to cross into South Sudan citing the new rates are exorbitant amidst deteriorating safety along Nimule-Juba Highway.

The South Sudan government has since March last year been charging 100 US Dollars annually for vehicles entering the country plus another 30 US dollars per vehicle entering and exiting.

However effective this month, the South Sudan government introduced new charges for vehicle registration, road tolls, temporary number plates, and entry fees.

Jacob Kawa, a driver along the Nimule-Juba highway notes that the charges for trucks entering and exiting the country recently doubled from the 30 dollars they previously paid to 75 dollars per truck.

According to Kawa, besides the road user fees, cases of extortion and attacks on drivers by security personnel along the Nimule-Juba highway have spiked making it expensive and risky for transportation to and from the volatile nation.

“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, you have to pay money by force,” says Kawa.

Hassan Abdi, another truck driver delivering fuel from Kenya to Juba says he spends nearly 150 dollars for every trip to Juba paying police and army officers at numerous roadblocks.

 Abdi says the extortion has reached a peak point along the Nimule Juba highway and asked the South Sudan government to intervene and curb the vice.

“At every checkpoint, you stop, you must pay some money to the officers, even when you give them your documents and passport for checking, you have to pay some money. We are tired of this extortion and demand urgent intervention of the government,” Abdi Uganda Radio Network in an interview Tuesday.

He says the charges levied on long freight trucks have also increased from 20,000 South Sudanese Pounds (about 130,000 Shillings) to 30,000 South Sudanese pounds (approximately 195,000 Shillings).

Stephen Odong Latek, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner says they will meet with their counterparts from South Sudan on Wednesday to resolve the anomaly and ensure the safety of the drivers.

“The majority of the drivers are complaining about the fee hikes and irregular charges being levied on them which are unrealistic. They are also telling us that the way they are served by officials there raises a question,” says Latek.

Bosco Wali, the Manager of BLD parking told Uganda Radio Network that over 100 trucks mainly from Kenya had parked at their parking lot since Monday following the protest.

By press time, the police had heavily deployed to quell disagreements that had erupted between the truck drivers carrying perishable goods who wanted to leave their striking colleagues with non-perishable goods.

In August last year, hundreds of cargo drivers staged a peaceful strike at the Elegu border point over the insecurity in South Sudan after some of their colleagues were allegedly shot dead by unknown gunmen along the Nimule-Juba highway.

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