Travellers along the interstate roads in South Sudan have raised complains over what they have seen as an increase in the number of illegal checkpoints.
“Why do I have to be checked at the entry point then again stopped and charged along the road?” Ismael, not his real name, asked.
Some motorists have identified more than four irregular roadblocks along the Juba-Nimule highway.
The first roadblock where a rope is placed across the tarmac road can be found 25 minutes away from Nimule town, shortly after Gordon hill.
The second illegal checkpoint where soldiers used wooden logs to block motorists from crossing over can be found 30 kilometres from Juba, a few minutes away from Juba Academy school.
The soldiers often stop truck drivers and demand for coronavirus certificates and some money to enable motorists to continue with their journey.
Others command that foreign nationals produce their travel authorization documents even after the visitors have been cleared by the immigration department at Nimule border post.
Some travellers who spoke to Eye Radio say illegal roadblocks have been set up by armed men in every interstate road across the country.
“I got almost a hundred checkpoints before I could reach Wau,” said James Dawar who recently travelled from Juba to Wau in Western Bahr el Ghazal state.
Truck drivers have often accused some security officers of mistreating them and extorting money along the major roads.
They complained that they are forced to pay bribes to pass.
The UN also reports that aid groups are restricted by security agencies from delivering relief items to the vulnerable people in the areas affected by violence.
In 2016, President Salva Kiir issued an order forming a committee to oversee smooth operations of aid agencies across the country.
The humanitarian high-level oversight committee was tasked with removing all the illegal roadblocks. But some travellers told Eye Radio that these illegal roadblocks still exist.
“These border entry points between Aweil and Southern Khordofan and also between Darfur and Raja is filled with criminals. When traders go to Sudan and return with goods, they are being robbed and killed by unknown gunmen. This is a threat to us here,” Andrew said.
When asked by Eye Radio, the acting spokesperson of the SSPDF, Brigadier General Santo Domic admitted that there are existing checkpoints that are being manned by the army.
“When you take about Nimule road, [this] is one of the highly sensitive security roads and this is a lifeline road to the Republic of South Sudan from East Africa. There are some legal roadblocks that have been erected, but they are not many,” he confirmed, adding that “those legal roadblocks are under the responsibility of SSPDF.”
Traders and drivers have often called on the government to remove all the roadblocks within the country.
They argue that these roadblocks are not meant for security but to collect illegal taxes and impose unwarranted penalties on traders.
The traders complain that they are losing a lot of money to soldiers at these checkpoints -which in turn leads to an increase in the price of commodities.
“These traders should be checked at the entry points and allowed to move freely without delay,” one caller suggested.
But the SSPDF spokesperson insists that “the purpose of [some] roadblocks is to check the security of the people that are coming to South Sudan and to check whether there is anything illegal being smuggled” into the country.”
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Published Friday, May 14, 2021
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