Hundreds of commercial trucks carrying goods bound for South Sudan have stopped at the borders this week, with drivers refusing to complete deliveries because of insecurity. A series of armed attacks on vehicles in South Sudan last month left at least 15 people dead. The truckers say they won't leave Uganda and Kenya until their safety can be guaranteed.
David Kirotho Mathinde, chairman of the Kenyan Drivers Association, said attacks on roads linking Juba to the towns of Nimule and Yei have claimed the lives of several foreign truckers in recent months.
He said no truck will leave for South Sudan if the government does not provide security along the roads.
"You see, these guys have been hijacking people — not only hijacking people, but killing drivers," Mathinde said. " . . . If the government of (South) Sudan is not going to take any action ... we are going to discuss this issue with our government and make sure that no person will enter that country."
Mathinde said that drivers often put their lives on the line to deliver food to countries such as South Sudan and Congo, which struggle with food insecurity, and that it's not fair that they are being targeted.
He said the association has asked South Sudan's government several times to boost security, but nothing much has ever been done.
All the drivers want, he said, is protection.
"Let them make sure that we have full support of security," Mathinde said. "No driver should be killed, no goods should be stolen."
Colonel Santo Domic, deputy spokesperson for South Sudan People's Defense Forces (SSPDF), said the chief of staff has implemented plans to provide security on the major roads leading to Juba.
Domic said that it was resolved in a SSPDF strategic security meeting that the forces along the road from Juba to Nimule and from Juba to Yei had to be reinforced. The security forces have been reinforcing since Friday, he said.
"We are going to locate a lot of detachments along those roads," he said. "Of course, it is impossible to close all the roads with the military, but we are going to close all those gaps either by foot patrol or mechanized patrol."
Domic said the army will make sure that the roads are safe for the movement of all commercial trucks, and for humanitarian operations.
Daniel Deng, an official in charge of border agents in the town of Nimule, said there are about 3,000 trucks parked on the Uganda side of the border. He said if the standoff continues, prices of fuel and food in South Sudan may start to rise because the landlocked country is dependent on goods transported through its neighbors.