Saturday, March 03, 2012

South Sudan Army Detains 9 Ugandan MPs

South Sudan army hold 9 MPs hostage

Posted Saturday, March 3 2012
Uganda National Monitor

The South Sudan authorities are claiming land 15Kms into Uganda. Presidents Salva Kiir and Museveni agreed to set up a commission to resolve the dispute.

Nine Members of Parliament were on Thursday afternoon held hostage by South Sudan authorities at the disputed border area of Lefori, west Nile region.

The Ugandan legislatures were part of a team that had gone on a fact-finding mission in Lefori Sub-county, which is at the centre of dispute between Uganda and South Sudan.

The dramatic day started with the nine MPs on the Foreign Affairs committees of Parliament holding a meeting with Moyo District leaders and elders at the Bamure trading centre, who told them about the contested area between the district and South Sudan.

The MPs then embarked on a journey to the border area but just as they left the trading centre, a group of people, said to be South Sudanese, carrying guns, stones, sticks and pangas blocked the road.

“We did not even reach the border area, we were still at the sub-county, which was still on the Uganda side, then a group of South Sudanese surrounded us, threatening to burn our cars,” said MP Grace Asamo (Disabilities, Eastern Region). “Then several men approached us, and cocked their guns at us, they were in the fatigue of South Sudan army and police.”

The Obongi County MP, Mr Hassan Fungaroo, also narrated; “They put us under gun-point and held us hostage for about three hours. It was very horrible.”

The MPs said the group accused them of illegal entry into South Sudan territory. According to narrations from the team, the administrator of the area, Mr Julius Bonda, then asked the team why they were visiting the place.

“I am sorry this land belongs to South Sudan and you have entered here illegally. You (MPs) should have gone to Kajo-Keji to meet the Commissioner to grant you permission to enter our territory,” he said.

“There is no reason for us to go to Kajo-Keji to seek for permission in my area of jurisdiction,” Moyo District chairman Jimmy Vukoni reportedly replied.

This is said to have angered Mr Bonda, who then ordered the men in SPLA uniforms to detain the MPs. Mr Vukoni said the SPLA soldiers quickly surrounded the team and waited for the second order.

The MPs said their explanations that they were in the area to ascertain the actual boundary between the two states fell on deaf ears. The group was released after three hours by the administrator of the area called the Kajo-Keji.

Last warning

“But they took our number plates and warned us never to return to that area,” said Ms Asamo. Foreign Affair Permanent Secretary James Mugume said the MPs or any other politician should not visit the area because the matter is for a joint technical team to resolve.

Mr Mugume said following a meeting by the presidents of the two countries last year, what remains to be done is for the two governments to avail money and a joint team will be put in place to survey the area.

“It is for the technical people to sort out the matter. And we hope that by end of next month, they will have started work,” Mr Mugume said. Border disputes between Uganda and South Sudan have raged on for over a decade.

In August 2009, SPLA soldiers abducted 20 Ugandans who were in their gardens and tortured them while in detention in South Sudan.

Presidents, Salva Kiir and Museveni met in Moyo to resolve the conflict over a year ago, but the resolutions are yet to be implemented. The group was led by the committee vice chairperson, Mr Hood Katuramu.

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