UPDF hands over body of South Sudanese woman killed in Kajokeji

UPDF hands over body of South Sudanese woman killed in Kajokeji

Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) on Thursday handed over the body of a woman killed in Kajo Keji County.

The remains of the late Mary Kiden were handed over to Kajo Keji County Commissioner Phanuel Dumo at Uganda’s border point of Afogi.

According to the mourners, the UPDF did not allow questions from Kajo Keji officials or the mourners who went to receive the body.

Kiden, 45, was shot dead during a protest over the illegal occupation of Bamurye village by the Aringa community of Uganda’s district of Yumbe.

The Executive Chief of Bamurye Boma, Gonyi, said the late Kiden was shot dead at Adeire and Kijaki mountainous areas near the then SPLA checkpoint on South Sudan territory.

Gonyi has called on the government of South Sudan to hold the Ugandan government accountable for the death of the late Kiden.

 “I have a case with them, when a Ugandan is arrested, he is handed over to the Ugandan government. We don’t kill them, we need the UPDF to compensate our daughter,” he stated.

Also, he urged the Ugandan government to release the other three South Sudanese who are still in detention without any conditions.

“We have been listening to our government, we didn’t take the law into our hands, we were peaceful, but they killed us. We want our government to tell us the way forwards before we all perish,” he said. 

Speaking to the husband of the deceased, Dimondi Alfred, he said he has been left with a family of 12 people to take care of after his wife, who was a breadwinner, was shot dead.

“She was the one who was managing the family. I have a chronic illness that does not allow me to dig, she was the breadwinner, when the kids are sick, she finds a way out.”

The late Kiden was a woman leader of Kangapo 2 Payam, and she has been buried at Lijaba village.

The City Review contacted the office of the Ugandan ambassador to South Sudan Brig Gen Ronnie Balya for a comment over the matter but the calls were unanswered by press time. On Thursday, the Central Equatoria State members of parliament representing Kajo Keji County condemned the illegal occupation of their area by some Ugandan nationals.   

Timber lumbering and farming activity practiced by the Ugandan communities (Photo by Denis Logonyi)

MPs condemn encroachment.

“We condemn the incursion, killing and abduction of civilians, burning of houses, and looting of resources. We also demand the release of the body of the deceased woman and the return of the abducted persons under UDF detention,”

 “Our territorial border integrity in Kajo Keji County has reportedly been encroached upon several times by inhabitants of Uganda from Moyo and Yumbe districts in search of natural resources and, by default, by extension of Uganda territory along our borderline.”

The commissioner who visited the area on Sunday said people were being transported by lorries from Uganda by someone called Wajaras Khemis, a Ugandan who has been profiteering from South Sudanese resources such as timber, and charcoal burning.

“He is the one (Wajaras) who organises that deal, telling them that there is free land here that belongs to Ugandans. We told the group to immediately leave Kajo Keji, and we have scheduled a meeting with the RDC of Moyo and RDC Yumbe so that we can address this issue.”

One of the encroachers known by the name Abunasoor said, “I am a farmer, and we were told there is empty land on this side, we heard it is our brother Wajarasu, who is a landlord.”

 “I came in 2022; it was around April 17, which means I have now finished one year in this area. Wajarasu) told us that this area was a training wing for SPLA. We are here, but we didn’t know that this place is South Sudan, and we are here not even because of the border, we are here just because of land,” he added.

However, Edmund Yakani, the Executive Director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) and the president of East Africa Civil Society Forum, has expressed concerns about the border crisis in Kajo Keji.

“This violence is taking a different shape, we are already losing the lives of innocent civilians and it is almost causing havoc between the two governments of South Sudan,” he said.

“I want to call upon the leadership in Kampala and Juba to take a proactive role in preventing the loss of lives and destruction of property over a territorial border dispute,” he added.

Yakani has called on both governments to ensure the peaceful coexistence of border communities and not to use their security organs to intimidate the citizens along the borderline.