Hundreds of Ugandans working as ‘Bodaboda’ motorcyclists in South Sudan have fled the country over alleged excessive maltreatment, a week after the government issued a directive stopping foreigners from operating in the area.
Under their umbrella body South Sudan Motorcycle Bodaboda Association (SSMBA), the Ugandan cyclists have since last week been riding in groups from Juba to Kampala, a distance that is more than 600 kilometres.
They accuse the South Sudanese nationals of attacking them in their homes at night warning of danger if they don’t leave their country. Many of them who appear in civilian clothes have also acted as police officers by tasking the Ugandans to display their particulars especially Identity Cards to establish their nationality. If they are Ugandan, they are allegedly assaulted and asked whether they never heard of the ban.
Last week Aleu Ayeny Aleu, the South Sudan Interior minister, issued a directive banning foreigners from involvement in the boda boda business. Aleu claimed that the move was to curb increasing criminal acts committed by many foreigners hiding in the business.
He tasked the Country’s Inspector General of Police and Director of Traffic Police to execute the ban. As Police started executing the order, the loathing Sudanese nationals also allegedly took advantage to expeditiously get rid of Ugandans.
As a result, most of the disgruntled motorcyclists under SSMBA, have resolved to flee the country because the situation is seemingly worsening.
Samuel Asiimwe, riding a motorcycle registration number CE 7493A, says he was attacked by three men at his home at night. He says he was asked to either leave the country or surrender his bike despite his licence that was still valid up to mid 2014. Fearing the worst, he decided to come back to Kampala for safety.
Godfrey Nsamba, another cyclist riding a motorcycle registration number CE 2434A, said he was shocked to see armed people in civilian clothes come to his place at night asking him to leave the country. He said that as the Uganda traders waited for a response from the Ugandan Embassy in Juba, the attackers kept coming.
Another rider David Tibamanya, who was riding a motorcycle number CE0209A, said he was attacked by a group of young Sudanese boys between the ages 10-15. He says that they shouted at him asking that to leave. He confronted the young boys, but a few minutes later, they came back with some men armed with sticks and grilled him why he had to react angrily to Sudanese yet it’s their country. He decided to leave the country.
Out of the 20,000 people in Bodaboda business in South Sudan, 1600 are Ugandans basing on records of those registered under the SSMBA association
Abraham Ojok, the SSMBA chairperson says they have petitioned government for a grace period as they look for money to get Ugandan registration numbers for their motorbikes to operate locally.
This is not the first time Ugandans have complained of harassment in South Sudan since the new country came out of war and got independence two years ago. The last major complaint was in April this year, when Ugandan traders and drivers in South Sudan blocked Elegu border on Gulu-Juba road after unknown people killed five traders including two truck drivers at Mesito, located about 15km from Juba town.
URN tried in vain to reach trade minister Amelia Kyambadde. But just over a week ago, Minister Kyambadde said the Government was in the final stages of compensating Ugandan traders who lost business in South Sudan.
Kyambadde said the South Sudan government launched an inquiry into the matter and a report showed that 44 million dollars was needed to compensate the traders.