By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 7, 2013 (BENTIU) - Sudanese traders working in Unity state say they continue to suffer harassment by Sudanese border guards, who demand exorbitant bribes from them before they are allowed to cross the border into South Sudan to sell their goods.
Hundreds of Sudanese traders arrive in Bentiu every week because of the city’s close proximity to the border with Sudan.
Bushar Abuokhar has been doing business in Unity state for more than a year, bringing flour, salt and sugar across the border to sell to local shopkeepers.
He says there is an easy market for goods and that he would like to bring more, but Sudanese officials had made it increasingly difficult for traders crossing into South Sudan.
“At [the] Sudanese border there are a group of people who create illegal check points in Sudan, and these are Sudanese officials. They craft numerous checkpoints, making us traders to undergo losses and as we enter into South Sudan territory we have no problems”, said Abuokhar.
He says security officials often demand illegal fees of more than $1,000 and if traders refuse to pay they are subject to beatings or other violence.
He says most of the traders have resorted to travelling by alternative routes to smuggle goods into South Sudan in order to avoid paying the high fees.
“Those who cross in here are not given official clearing by Sudanese authorities. Everyone use to drive his own car to hit the roads. If you reach at the border you pay something and you are allowed to go”, said Abuokhar.
Hamed Zow Mohamed has been trading in Bentiu for more than a decade.
In addition to the high fees charged in Sudan, South Sudan’s independence two years ago has also created other financial concerns in his work, mainly ongoing immigration costs and passport renewal fees charged by South Sudanese authorities.
Mohamed has called on officials in Khartoum and Juba to create policies that allow traders to move more freely across the border and with fewer fees, adding that this would also help traders keep their costs down.
During a recent meeting in Khartoum between South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan al-Bashir, both leaders committed to normalising relations between the two countries and settling their disputes amicably.