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A truck off-road on Juba-Nimule Highway. File photo

Killings in villages, road ambushes, price hikes, its misery in South Sudan

By Richard Sultan

It’s a bitter cock tale of problems that are countering peace efforts in South Sudan where the government and several opposition groups are implementing a pact aimed at ending six years of crisis that brought the oil rich nation to its knees.

Three years after the pact was reached, communities are still fighting and killing each other in the villages and ambushes continue claiming lives on the roads.

The peace being implemented in the capital Juba is not reflective of what people need in the communities including rebuilding their livelihoods and development, an official told Juba Echo in Juba, and asked not to be mentioned.

“We have so far provided nothing for them, no roads, no security for agriculture and we continue to allow people steal their livestock,” the politician said.

“All these are the undoing of the government in Juba-we need to let peace dividends trickle down to the communities.”

President Salva Kiir’s administration joined hands with long time rival Riek Machar and other opposition groups formed a transitional government of national unity in February 2020 with the aim of pacifying South Sudan and leading it to democratic elections after three years.

The crisis left 400,000 people dead, displaced four million others while reducing crude oil production, the country’s sole revenue source and leading to chaos in the economy.

Inflation in the country has also eroded purchasing power of the people.

In the last month, hundreds of people have been killed in violence involving communities in Tambura of Western Equatoria State.

Violence involving cattle keepers around the country is also adding to the despair of the communities.

To crown the misery, ambushes have returned, including on the busy Juba-Nimule highway which carries the bulk of the country’s foreign trade. About eight people have been killed by gunmen while traveling on the thoroughfare in August alone.

Among those killed were two truck drivers and two catholic sisters.

Now truck drivers from neighbouring countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have refused to travel on the Juba-Nimule highway until a concrete solution to security on the highway is undertaken.

The intercommunal violence, ambushes and killing are leaving traders speculating on availability of commodities and leading to hoarding of goods which negatively impact prices,” Abraham Kuol Nyuon, the professor of Political Science at the University of Juba told Juba Echo by phone.

“The little the people used to get from their economic activities is no longer available because of the fear of violence, making everybody to get their basic commodities from the market instead of harvesting it from their gardens,” Nyoun said.

Business people including Dawa Susan have had to contend with abuses simply because she hiked her commodities to tally with increasing prices.

“Customers come and ask but the prices are so high that they walk away,” the mother of two who sells groceries at Gudele Market told Juba Echo in an interview.

“A customer even called me a thief, stealing from them,” she said.

For Khamis Michael, a taxi driver in Juba, all problems stem from mismanagement of the country.

“How do you expect prices in the market to go down when there is no security of movement along the major highways of Juba to Nimule, Juba to Yei, Juba to Tombura and a disparaging natural disaster in Upper Nile region among others?” Michael pondered.

“The government doesn’t pay salaries, hardly prioritises security on our Nimule lifeline and ironically keeps borrowing from International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the disguise of stabilizing the market,” he said, referring to the latest $334 million IMF gave South Sudan recently.

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