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Uganda, South Sudan Authorities Counter Accuse Border Officials on Harassment

The matter was raised by the Tseretenya Bomah Chief of Ikotos County Peter Odwar in relation to an incident in which two nationals were arrested in Madi Opei Town Council, Lamwo district on suspicion of coordinating inter-border livestock thefts.
01 Dec 2021 18:57
Ikotos County Commissioner Joseph Lokolong shake hands with Lamwo RDC James Kidega during the handover Photo By Dan M Komakech

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Authorities in Uganda and South Sudan are counter accusing each other’s security and immigration officials of the alleged abuse and harassment of their nationals while crossing the border. 

The matter was raised by the Tseretenya Bomah Chief of Ikotos County Peter Odwar in relation to an incident in which two nationals were arrested in Madi Opei Town Council, Lamwo district on suspicion of coordinating inter-border livestock thefts. 

Odwar alleges that he has received persistent reports from people who have suffered various forms of harassment purportedly perpetrated by immigration officials while crossing border points in Uganda. Odwar wondered how South Sudan nationals who had been granted legal passage through Uganda’s immigration border posts ended up being accused of crimes and their property impounded.    

In a separate incident last month, Odwar alleged that a Customs and border protection agent from Ikotos County was reportedly beaten up by Uganda border officials, detained and his motorcycle impounded under unclear circumstances. Odwar has now petitioned Ugandan authorities to intervene and investigate violations of the rights of immigrants and to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are brought to book.

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However, the Lamwo Resident District Commissioner James Nabinson Kidega equally accused the South Sudan immigrant officials manning the border posts of reportedly subjecting Ugandan nationals to inhumane maltreatment.

Kidega says his office has severally received reports of dehumanizing treatment and abuses including; extortion, beatings, illegal detention and impounding motorcycles and vehicles being encountered at the border points of Pajok, Tseretenya, Owiny-Kibul and Lubone in South Sudan.

According to Kidega, repeated efforts by his office over the complaint to the South Sudan counterparts to hold some of these implicated security and border officials accountable for their actions of misconduct have been unnoticed. Kidega cited an incident that has dragged on for months now, where a Ugandan contractor who left his vehicle and equipment on his construction site in Magwi County due to the COVID-19 lockdown had his equipment impounded by the police.

It’s reported that the contractor’s efforts to have his vehicle released from custody has not been successful since the police and border officials on the South Sudan side want him to pay three million shillings and also sign documents that he did not understand.

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Daniel Luchofe, the Officer in Charge of Immigration at the Tseretenya Customs in South Sudan didn’t rule out the claims but says some claimants could have fallen prey for violating common border protocols and engaging in criminal activities like smuggling and illicit trade.

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The Ikotos County Commissioner Joseph Lokolong condemned the allegations although he refuted receipt of any formal complaints containing detailed claims of mistreatment by border agents. Lokolong however apologized for any wrongs lodged against their officials and asked Ugandan nationals to embrace reporting any violations such that appropriate action is taken against the implicated border officers.

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Both countries have consented to enhance coordination, information sharing and reporting cases of violation against their respective citizens such that vice is minimized.    

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