Tension remained high last week in the West Nile border town of Moyo as residents continued protests against an illegal attack by suspected South Sudanese on villagers in Wano where a long-running border dispute persists.
The tension arises from a border dispute at Wano Village in Lefori Sub County in Moyo, which forced people to flee their homes. The skirmishes have displaced 108 families.
The recent attacks on Ugandans by South Sudanese come on the heels of another attack where the South Sudanese security officials arrested and tortured 35 Ugandans, including census officials and journalists covering the census in Wano village, as they were deemed to be operating in South Sudanese territory.
The current Uganda-South Sudan spate over a small parcel of land flashes fresh memories of when our military forces almost went to war with neighbouring Kenya over a small Island called Migingo, which is precisely the size of a football pitch. This war threat pushed the two good neighbours, also big trade partners, intodiplomatic embarrassment.
In August 2007, Uganda almost went to full-scale war against the government of DR Congo over a tiny island of Rukwanzi which lies at the southern tip of Lake Albert. Rukwanzi was seen as a strategic location for oil exploration which had been going on in the area for several years.
The country has also experienced tribal/district border clashes with the most recent being the clash between residents of Nwoya and Nebbi districts over land located some five kilometres away from the boundary of River Nile. Lives have been lost as the Acholi and Jonan take on each other.
On January 8th 2010, more than 150 farmers from Kamonkoli sub-county in Budaka district raided Namatala wetland in Mbale and killed a farmer from Bunghoko- Mutoto sub-county in Mbale, sparking a row that would culminate into the death of more than a dozen people over a border dispute between the Bagisu and Bagwere.
First, the Uganda and South Sudanese governments should move swiftly to settle this border conflict in Moyo, and other border points, before things get out of hand. If need be, the two governments should involve a third party, the British government, which was the main architect at delineating this border in 1914. This is exactly what Uganda and Kenya didin calming the Migingo debacle.
In the words of Moyo District Woman MP Anne Auru, the government should “immediately intervene in the ongoing border conflict between Uganda and South Sudan”, warning that “if not handled properly, the situation could escalate into a bigger crisis”.
Mr Daniel Deng, from the South Sudan National Legislative Council, who led the Juba delegation to Uganda soon after the attacks, couldn’t say it more candidly: “Since the Anyanya 1 war, we have been living peacefully in Uganda because it has become our second home. So we want our people to stay peacefully. We have a crisis in South Sudan which should not be extended to the borders with Uganda.”
The border disputes sparked the war that eventually bootedField Marshal Idi Amin from power in 1979. Amin had declared war on Tanzania in an atte