The ad-hoc committee formed by the Governor of Central Equatoria State to address the border dispute between South Sudan and Uganda says they have exchanged detainees in connection with the recent border conflict arrests.
The committee said that they met with Ugandan authorities and agreed to hand over 13 Ugandans and Uganda also handed over the chief of Bori Boma of Kajo-Keji County who had been arrested.
Fifty-two-year-old Ernesto Tumia, the chief of Bori Boma, was arrested on September 8 by Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers following a dispute over land along the border.
13 Ugandans were subsequently arrested by South Sudanese authorities in retaliation for the arrest of Chief Tumia.
They were accused of carrying out illegal charcoal burning and farming activities in Bori Boma.
Speaking to the media after the meeting with Governor Emmanuel Adil on Wednesday, the head of the committee and Central Equatoria State Security Advisor, Mr Angelo Daya, confirmed that on Monday, the Ugandan and South Sudan authorities exchanged the apprehended people.
“The governor sent us to address the release of Chief Ernesto Tumia and the 13 Ugandans so that they can go back and continue with their lives. Indeed, our team went and met with the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and Local Council 5 (LC5) chairman of Yumbe District in Uganda and their team and the meeting lasted two days and resulted in the release of Chief Ernesto Tumia and 13 Ugandans.” He said.
According to Mr Daya, the exchange of the arrested individuals took place at Afogi Border Point. He said the officials from the two countries agreed to initiate dialogue between the communities of Yumbe and Kajo-Keji to find an amicable solution to the border row.
“We also discussed issues of harmony among the two communities and agreed that the local communities, the elders and the landlords should be brought together to dialogue,” he added.
However, according to Uganda Police Force Public Relations Officer, CP Fred Enanga, Chief Tumia has been entering Uganda, accompanied by South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) soldiers to parcel out land and allocate it to South Sudanese nationals since 2021.
While addressing the press on Monday, Mr Enanga revealed that the release of the chief was part of a swap agreement between Ugandan authorities and their South Sudanese counterparts to release 13 Ugandans who were allegedly abducted by the South Sudanese authorities in Kochi sub-county, Yumbe district in retaliation for the arrest of Chief Tumia for fuelling land conflicts.
The police officer said that apart from the previous incidents, on September 9, Mr Tumia while in the company of the South Sudanese army, brought with him more South Sudanese and gave them land, which led to his arrest by the UPDF.
In retaliation, the South Sudanese Army and authorities arrested 13 Ugandans and held them till September 14, when they were handed over at Afogi border post in Moyo district to the Ugandan Authorities headed by the Yumbe District LC5 Chairman, Mr Abdul Mutwalibu Aseku and the Yumbe District Internal Security Officer (DISO) among others.
In exchange, Mr Tumia was handed over through the Commandant Office Of the Prime Minister (OPM) Bididi Refugee Camp, Mr Joel Michael Nabugere, in liaison with South Sudan authorities.
Both Ugandan and South Sudan authorities conducted a joint meeting and emphasised peaceful co-existence as numerous measures were put in place by the joint security agencies to avert any infiltrations.