Uganda Revenue Authority-URA officials in Arua district are puzzled with the escalation of smuggling in the region.
They claim some of items that had been kicked off the list of smuggled goods have started getting their way into Uganda. In the last three years, URA officials in West Nile region have been battling contraband cigarettes but they are now overwhelmed with consumables such as sugar and rice. As a result, URA has launched an operation of stem the vice.
Rogers David Sendikowa, the West Nile regional enforcement officer says that the operation is ongoing in Arua, Nebbi, Zombo, Maracha and Koboko districts. He says that during the operation they impounded 98 cartons of contraband cigarettes worth 55 million shillings, 90 unregistered motorcycles, 100 bags of rice and sugar respectively. He says the items are smuggled into the country from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, where the taxes are lower compared to Uganda.
Residents attribute the escalation of smuggling to poverty. Stanley Yiacia, a resident of Tanganyika ward in Arua municipality says if government was delivering proper services and distributing national resources, nobody would resort to smuggling. Luiji Candini, the Arua district production secretary concurs. According to Candini smuggling would be history if there was enough government support for agricultural production, which he believes would employ most of the youth involved in the illicit trade.
He claims that youths only appear in name in the NAADS program, adding that most beneficiaries are actually government officials. URA attributes the survival of smuggling to the porous borders in West Nile region.
There are more than 300 entry points in West Nile region alone connecting to South Sudan and DR. Congo, and 19 others in Pakwach that are not manned.