South Sudanese authorities say they have sent a joint security team to map out the hideouts of bandits terrorising Kenyan and Ugandan drivers on its main highway from Uganda.
It comes a day after Kenyan truckers suspended cargo transport services to South Sudan after two of their drivers were killed and trucks torched by unknown criminals on Saturday on the Juba-Nimule highway.
South Sudan’s National Police Service spokesman Gen Daniel Justine said a joint security team, composed of military intelligence and police officers, had been sent out on Monday to track down the bandits.
After meeting with Kenyan diplomats in Juba, the deputy foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Deng Dau Deng, promised safety for foreign drivers.
“I, on behalf of the South Sudan government, met the Kenya ambassador to convey my condolences to the families that lost their loved ones during the weekend attack. We condemned the barbaric attack and call for an end to such,” Deng said.
Kenya’s ambassador to Juba, Samuel Nandwa, called on Kenyans in South Sudan to stay calm as both authorities seek a permanent solution.
“I want to tell all Kenyans to feel at home and know that they are in secure hands as they travel between Nimule and Juba as the government is taking care of the security,” he told South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation in an interview on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) suspended transporting cargo to South Sudan after two truck drivers were killed 45km from Juba on Sunday evening.
KTA said five trucks were attacked by unknown people at about 5.30pm and two Kenyans were killed while the drivers of three other trucks had to flee for their lives.
It said attacks on their drivers and vandalism of their trucks were taking a toll as lives had been lost and members had lost their vehicles and goods.
This was the second time KTA suspended services this year as a result of insecurity.
South Sudan depends mainly on the Mombasa port for its imports. Kenya Ports Authority data indicates it is only second to Uganda in the volume of its imported cargo.
In October last year, armed men demanded thousands of dollars as ransom after kidnapping two Uganda drivers and killing two others on the Juba-Nimule road. In May, three Uganda drivers were killed on the Juba-Kaya highway.
In April, truck drivers stopped ferrying goods to South Sudan due to increasing crime on the Yei-Juba route, where two Kenyans were killed and their trucks torched.
KTA resumed carrying cargo after the Kenyan and South Sudanese governments assured them of their security.
The Uganda Embassy warned foreign drivers entering South Sudan. But after negotiations among Kenyan, Ugandan and South Sudanese authorities, they agreed the drivers would be escorted by South Sudanese soldiers to ensure their security.
The agreement was reached as goods accumulated at the Elegu border crossing, while shops in Juba were running out of stock.
Last week, a passenger vehicle was ambushed on the Juba-Nimule highway, leaving two Catholic clerics and three other travellers dead.