By Mapuor Malual Manguen
September 17, 2013, The reaction of foreigners particularly Ugandans living in South Sudan towards recent ban on foreign boda boda riders by Interior Ministry and Wild Life Conservation in the Republic of South Sudan should be an eye-opener. Immediately after this Order came to effect, Uganda motor cycle riders fleeted back home and began misinterpreting action taken by Government of South Sudan as expulsion of Ugandans. They also claimed they were robbed of their belongings by South Sudanese as they returned to their country. They put forward all these claims in order to premeditate and justify their harassments of South Sudanese living in Uganda and to create discord between Uganda and South Sudan.
Consequently, this matter seemingly suffered sensationalisation when Uganda Parliament took tough line by calling for blanket expulsion of South Sudanese living in Uganda. Fortunately, Uganda Government was quick to dismiss this call because the matter had already been clarified by two Presidents: Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir. But what could have been in the mind of one Honorable Member of Parliament, Gilbert Olanya who raised motion in Parliament to expel South Sudanese in his country? Did he really look around in his village or Kampala and saw single South Sudanese ridding boda boda or matatu? Has he ever heard or seen group of heavily armed South Sudanese gangs who stage night robbery in any Uganda cities or his village in Northern Uganda? Are there South Sudanese doing petty jobs such as restaurant attendance, laundry, construction, hawking etc reserved for local Ugandans? The questions are many to occupy this page. But the fact is, no South Sudanese fits in any of the above questions. However, the opposite of that equation is reality which Hon. Olanya intentionally fails to accept.
But personally, I am not surprised by Hon. Olanya and his colleagues’ attitude towards sovereign decision of banning foreign boda boda riders in South Sudan. Just like most of the neighbors of the Republic of South Sudan, Uganda could also hold leverage of threatening South Sudan and hold it hostage because it relies heavily on imports brought from East African via Uganda route. It is worth mention that Uganda traders and truck drivers blocked Nimule Road in several occasions because of their claims of mistreatment in South Sudan. So, shall South Sudan continue to live under continuous threats and blackmails even when exercising its sovereign rights to put its house in order? Of course not! And Aleu Ayieny’s Order is here to stay.
Those South Sudanese who criticize Aleu’s ban on foreign boda boda riders in the country are either driven by self-centered political interest or myopic jealousy of this Order. If we are to call spade a spade, foreign boda boda riders did not do anything good in this country since they invaded streets of South Sudan major towns a couple of years ago. Many accidents that had happened in Juba have always largely been blame on disorganized; greet boda boda riders who never respect any piece of traffic rule of this country. I am not saying such accidents may stop since they are banned but the fact that sanity is restored as a result of Aleu’s Order will definitely reduce cases of accidents masterminded by erstwhile boda boda mob in Juba streets.
While others criticize this order on the best reasons known to them, I personally appreciate this order which I call a “patriotic decision” that would enhance us taking back our country from unscrupulous foreigners that are firmly taking control of all economic factors in South Sudan in the pretext of investment. Yes these groups may have been given license by the Government. But what is wrong with cancelling such licenses if they became thorn on the flesh of the citizens? In any case, foreign investors (?) should not benefit at the expense of citizens, and then cheer up because they were licensed by Government to operate lawfully! Any critic whether South Sudanese or foreigner must be objective and critically look at the behaviors of investors in this country.
As land locked country, the Government of this country must stop over dependent on single route. It is high time that the Government should invest on building roads that connect South Sudan to other neighbors such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Congo. If otherwise, the unruly Uganda truck drivers or traders if you like, would likely increase their intimidation and interfere with sovereign internal policies of South Sudan.
The author is journalist and columnist based in Juba. He can be reached at email@example.com