South Sudan Gov’t Commits To End Harassment of Truck Drivers

South Sudan government officials have committed to putting to an end the rampant cases of extortion and harassment of cargo truck drivers by security and immigration personnel.

This comes just two days after hundreds of cargo truck drivers staged a protest at the Uganda-South Sudan border town of Elegu in Amuru District.

The drivers accused South Sudan immigration officials of levying exorbitant taxes on vehicles entering and exiting their country, harassment, and extortion along the Nimule Juba Highway.

On Wednesday, both Uganda and South Sudan security, customs, and immigration officials held an impromptu bilateral meeting in a bid to address the driver’s grievances, hours after they ended their strikes. The meeting was held at Elegu One-stop border point in Elegu Town Council.

Maj. Gen Gathon Jual Riek, the Acting Commissioner of Customs in South Sudan’s National Revenue Authority acknowledged during the meeting that 70 percent of the complaints raised by the drivers were true and pledged to have them resolved.

He notes that ever since the driver’s strike, his government has taken some measures to crack down on illegal roadblocks and apprehend those behind the extortion of drivers along the Nimule-Juba Highway.

Gen. Riek however noted that whereas the truck drivers complained about exorbitant charges by South Sudan’s customs officials, the fees are legally approved by the government. He advised the aggrieved drivers not to pay any money to individuals who are not legally employed in the immigration and customs department.

The truck drivers’ strike that started on Monday ended on Tuesday afternoon following the intervention of Police after business had been paralyzed at the Elegu one-stop border point.

Abel Kagumire, the Commissioner of Customs at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) notes that the two days strike affected not only their operations but also businesses in South Sudan.

He says daily, the customs department clears about 300 cargo trucks at the Elegu one-stop Border point arguing that the two days strike meant a loss in revenue and disruption of supplies of goods to Juba.

Kagumire says the bilateral meeting held over the drivers’ woes has been impactful and helped the customs and immigration departments of the two countries to arrive at resolutions that will help smooth the operations of drivers.

Asadu Musisi, the Chairperson Regional Heavy Truck Drivers Association Investment Club lauded the intervention of the two countries for swiftly intervening on the concerns of the truck drivers. 

He however called on the South Sudan government officials to put into action their commitments and ensure a safe working environment for drivers from other East African Countries.

On Tuesday, the Police arrested three truck drivers, a Somali national, and two Ugandans for allegedly obstructing Police officers from clearing traffic that had paralyzed at the border point and inciting their colleagues to maintain the protest.

Damali Nachuha, the Aswa River Regional Police Commander told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the suspects are still in police custody as their files are being processed.

She notes that the suspect’s files will be forwarded to the Resident State Attorney for advice on whether they have a case to answer or not.

In August last year, cargo truck drivers held strikes at Elegu border point over insecurity along the Nimule-Juba Highway following frequent attacks against their colleagues by unknown gunmen.

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