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UGANDA - 11 Jun 2024

South Sudanese fish traders stranded as Uganda impound trucks

Ugandan authorities have impounded several trucks carrying salted fish from South Sudan traders at the Elegu and Epondwe border points.

The traders, who were en-route to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have been forced to offload their cargo in Uganda, leaving them stranded and concerned about safety and their perishable goods.

Acting spokesperson for the South Sudan Foreign Affairs Ministry, Martin Manyiel, confirmed the incident to Radio Tamazuj.

Manyiel stated that the ministry was working with the South Sudan Ministry of Fisheries to address the issue, and was seeking to engage with the Ugandan authorities.

“I was made aware of it the other day while I was in Ethiopia. I learned that there was an issue involving the South Sudanese fish sellers in Uganda. We will issue a statement as the ministry and may even call the Ugandan ambassador here,” Manyiel stated.

A representative of the affected traders, Mangar Akuot Yuang, told Radio Tamazuj that they were stranded for several days, and that they feared for their perishable goods and potential theft.

“The Ugandan government, especially the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) protection unit, is forcing us to offload our fish in Uganda, but our destination is Kasindi in the DRC,” Yuang said.

“Kasindi is where we have our customers, but the Ugandan government is forcing us to bring the market back, making us incur losses. All seven of the vehicles are currently parked at the Kasese District’s Mpondwe and Buwera.”

Yuang said the situation was escalated by the arrest of four traders, including Anyuat Mawel Anyuat, a well-known figure in the fish trading community.

The Ugandan government’s move is seen as an attempt to bolster its economy by encouraging local sales of the seized fish. However, this has raised questions about the impact on cross-border trade and the livelihoods of the South Sudanese traders.

This incident comes amid ongoing discussions about trade protocols within the East African Community (EAC) and the need for clearer communication and standardization of regulations. The detention of the South Sudanese trucks not only disrupts the livelihoods of the traders, but also underscores the complexities of navigating regional trade agreements.

As negotiations continue between South Sudan and Uganda, the fate of the detained fish and the traders remains uncertain. The situation serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between national interests and regional cooperation in East Africa.

Ugandan authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.