South Sudan nationals charging Ugandans to access farms in Lamwo

South Sudan nationals charging Ugandans to access farms in Lamwo
UPDF patrols the Ngomoromo border point after repealing the South Sudanese militias out of Ugandan territory in 2015.

Lamwo, Uganda | URN | A boundary dispute between Uganda and South Sudan has left residents of Ngomoromo village in Lamwo District unable to conduct normal businesses.

The contentious land is located in Parapadwanya bordering Ngomoromo in Uganda and Poge in South Sudan’s, Ayaci County. The disputed area is also one of the busy routes connecting Lamwo District to Imatong State in South Sudan.

Hundreds of locals fled from Ngomoromo village in 2015 after more than 300 armed men from Ayaci County invaded the area, 14 kilometres inside Uganda claiming it’s their territory.

Benson Ocan, a local farmer in Ngomoromo village says the dispute has greatly affected their livelihood. Ocan says he fled the area in 2015 at the height of contention and abandoned sim-sim and maize on his five-acre garden. He adds that although he owns the land, he cannot farm on it, for fear of his life.

Ocan is currently operating a small retail shop in Palabek Kal sub-county. He, however, says that he is unable to meet most of his needs because of the small profit from the business.

Another resident of Licwar Parish who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal says his farmland is now occupied by South Sudan security personnel who claim its ownership.

He says that last year, he paid 20,000 Shillings to South Sudanese officials currently occupying the land to allow him to grow crops. However, the South Sudanese officials turned against him and chased him away before he could harvest his crops.

Francis Obalim, the officer in Charge of Ngomoromo Police Post says the disputed area was initially a base used by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces to secure the border point. But it was temporarily handed to Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) as a base for hunting down militias that were establishing the region.

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Obalim explains that the South Sudan nationals have instead turned the area into their territory, making the Ugandan settlers destitute. Obalim confirmed that many desperate farmers are currently paying South Sudan officials to rent fertile land for farming on a territory that is in Ugandan soil. Obalim says they have also received reports of extortion on traders plying the route by suspected government security forces.

According to Obalim, last week, South Sudan security officials arrested a Ugandan citizen identified as Reuben Mutalo, a resident of Kyankwanzi Sub-county in Kyankwanzi district for illegally crossing into disputed territory to cut logs for burning charcoal.

Lamwo Resident District Commissioner Nabinson Kidega says what is happening in the area is illegal. He says the governments are considering a joint investigation into the matter, to establish the persons involved in picking money from local farmers.

Kidega noted that there are plans to have the boundary demarcated adding that a joint technical committee instituted to ensure demarcation of the Uganda-South Sudan border made a recent visit. He, however, explains that whereas Uganda has raised money for the exercise, their counterpart South Sudan haven’t raised anything, a move that could easily cause delays.

Since 2016 following renewed civil unrest in South Sudan, the work of an 18-member AU led Joint Technical Committee (JTC) established on Delimitation and Demarcation of Uganda South Sudan international Borderline has been hanging in balance.