By Godfrey Olukya
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - At least 600 long-distance truck drivers from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi are on an indefinite strike Thursday, demanding better treatment from authorities.
Drivers packed vehicles with goods at the border town of Elegu in Uganda and refused to cross into South Sudan.
They claim that they are tired of being tortured by South Sudan police and army personnel who put in place illegal roadblocks and extort money.
Any driver who refuses to be bribed is detained or even shot dead, they said.
"We have made the decision to strike after getting tired of paying bribes and illegal taxes to policemen, army men and immigration officers in South Sudan. They detain or kill any one of us who fails to give them money. Seven of our colleagues are being detained in the town of Nimule,” said one Kenyan driver, Isac Ojambo.
Asadu Musisi, chairman of the Regional Heavy Trucks Association, told Anadolu that East African governments need to help the drivers.
"There is a need for the leaders of East African countries to meet soon and discuss the safety of truck drivers on roads in South Sudan," he said.
Abel Kagumire, a customs officer at the Uganda revenue authority based at the Elegu border post, said: "The strike paralyzed work at the border. Each day we clear over 300 trucks moving into South Sudan but since yesterday we haven't cleared any. There are over 600 trucks congesting the area.”
A regional police commander in Uganda, Damali Nakacwa, told Anadolu that drivers have a right to strike as long as they do not interfere with other people’s rights.
Gorge Lukudu, a South Sudan border customs officer, said senior officials from South Sudan are meeting with counterparts from Uganda to solve the problem.