Construction of a bridge to connect Yumbe to south Sudan on River Kaya by Yumbe district has again sparked off the long standing border dispute between Yumbe and authorities in South Sudan County of Lanya.
The Motta-Kaya bridge construction project worth over 100 million shillings was initiated in 2007 but because the authorities from south Sudan’s Lanya County opposed it the work was halted. But in early this month the district sent contractors to resume work hence sparking another round of tension between the two authorities.
Huda Mika, the commissioner for Lanya county in South Sudan who is at the center of the controversy, alleges that the area in which the bridge is being constructed is in south Sudan.
He says the project should be suspended because the River Kaya is not the border between Uganda and South Sudan. Since the border dispute between Ugandan districts at the border with South Sudan started, South Sudan authorities have always claimed that their border line is 10 kilometres inside Uganda. This is an assertion which has always been roundly rejected by Ugandan authorities.
According to Mika, the bridge construction works will only be allowed to proceed when the international boundaries between the two countries are clearly marked to avoid confusion. But his argument was rejected by the visiting Special Advisor to Central Equatoria state Stephen Lemi, who accused the commissioner of blocking services to both the Sudanese and Ugandans.
While meeting Yumbe officials over the weekend, Lemi says they will ensure that the project implementation resumes as soon as possible since it has taken long because of little issues that could be resolved without involving the state.
However Yumbe district LC 5 chairperson Taban Yasin says the border dispute has not only affected the bridge construction project. He says two years back when the district attempted to build a school and a health center around the Kaya area similar resistance forced them to abandon the projects.
Haman Sentongo, Yumbe RDC, says working on the bridge would improve road network for development of the two countries. He appealed to his counterparts in Lanya county to avoid confrontation since this will increase insecurity between the two communities.
But the delayed construction has affected trade between the two neighboring areas of Lanya and Yumbe districts. Rasul Aluma, a resident of Kaya village on the Ugandan side says when it rains life becomes difficulties for the both communities especially traders.
He appealed to the South Sudanese authorities to allow the bridge construction to go on so that it can help the two communities to develop.
In West Nile, Yumbe is just one of the districts face with unresolved border conflicts with Africa’s newest state. Moyo and Adjumani districts are also embroiled in similar border problems with South Sudan.