By Spy Uganda
Lamwo: Suspected South Sudan security personnel are reportedly chasing Ugandan farmers from their gardens at the borders within Lamwo district claiming the land belongs to South Sudan.
Reports indicate that the gunmen believed to be coming from Owiny-Kibul and Ingiji in the Central Equatorial State of South Sudan have in the past weeks made separate incursions into Uganda and chased farmers from their gardens in the border areas of Nyimur in Lamwo district.
Moses Billi, the Palabek Nyimur sub county chairperson noted that over 100 farmers who had embarked on intensive sim-sim cultivation in the villages of Mudu West, Mudu North and Waligo in Paracele parish have since been evicted by the armed groups.
The majority of the farmers who hail from different sub counties within Lamwo districts and the neighbouring districts of Kitgum, Pader, Agago and Gulu usually pitch camp for months at the border where the farmlands are vast and presumed too fertile.
According to Billi, the armed groups claim that the areas where the Ugandan farmers who have already cultivated an estimated 250 hectares of farmlands are part of the South Sudan territory.
Some of the affected farmers allege that South Sudan personnel have been extorting them and charging them between 100,000 to 200,000 Shillings for their purported illegal entry into their land adding that most of the affected farmers who have since abandoned their farmlands are counting losses since it’s unlikely that they will be able to harvest their crops.
Doris Abalo, the district secretary for Production and Natural Resources said that initial reports also indicate that some affected farmers hired land from the South Sudanese who later denied having reached any agreements with them. According to Abalo, some unscrupulous people who unfortunately also include local leaders from South Sudan have as well taken advantage of the situation to defraud the unsuspecting farmers by evicting them.
Nyimur sub county councilor James Ochola who also doubles as the Lamwo district speaker says they have since convened two inter-border meetings with their counterparts in South Sudan and the border communities to stop the fights but such efforts seem not yielding positive results.
Ochola warns that if not addressed, the situation could lead to a wider conflict between South Sudan and Uganda and wants the two states to explore actual territorial boundary demarcation in order to resolve all cross-border disputes.
Lamwo Resident District Commissioner James Nabinson Kidega says that discussions are already underway with his counterparts in South Sudan to ensure that the matter is addressed. Kidega adds that claims of extortion and preventing farmers from accessing their gardens are also being investigated.
Its worth noting that South Sudanese authorities last month kidnapped forty-two Ugandan nationals for allegedly cultivating illegally inside their territory. The suspects, majorly residents of Ngomoromo village in Lokung sub county, Lamwo district were being held at Pugee Military detachment in Ayachi county in the Eastern Equatorial State of South Sudan and were later released.