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Deals and Dealings: Inconclusive Peace and Treacherous Trade along the South Sudan-Uganda Border



Since Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, its border with Uganda has become a hub of activity. Contrasting developments on the Ugandan side of the border with those on the South Sudanese side, the paper draws on empirical fieldwork to argue that the CPA has created new centres of power in the margins of both states. However, in day-today dealings on either side of the border, South Sudanese military actors have become dominant. In the particular case of Arua and the South Sudan– Uganda border, past wartime authority structures determine access to opportunities in a tightly regulated, inconclusive peace. This means that smallscale Ugandan traders – although vital to South Sudan – have become more vulnerable to South Sudan’s assertions of state authority. The experience of Ugandan traders calls into question the broad consensus that trade across the border is always beneficial for peace-building. The paper concludes that trade is not unconditionally helpful to the establishment of a peaceful environment for everyone.
Africa Spectrum 2-3/2012: 5-31
Deals and Dealings: Inconclusive Peace
and Treacherous Trade along the
South SudanUganda Border
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
Abstract: Since Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed,
its border with Uganda has become a hub of activity. Contrasting develop-
ments on the Ugandan side of the border with those on the South Sudanese
side, the paper draws on empirical fieldwork to argue that the CPA has cre-
ated new centres of power in the margins of both states. However, in day-to-
day dealings on either side of the border, South Sudanese military actors
have become dominant. In the particular case of Arua and the South Sudan
Uganda border, past wartime authority structures determine access to op-
portunities in a tightly regulated, inconclusive peace. This means that small-
scale Ugandan traders – although vital to South Sudan – have become more
vulnerable to South Sudan’s assertions of state authority. The experience of
Ugandan traders calls into question the broad consensus that trade across
the border is always beneficial for peace-building. The paper concludes that
trade is not unconditionally helpful to the establishment of a peaceful envi-
ronment for everyone.
Manuscript received 3 January 2012; accepted 17 July 2012
Keywords: South Sudan, Uganda, peace process, transit traffic
Mareike Schomerus is the consortium director of the Justice and Security
Research Programme in the Department of International Development at
the London School of Economics. She trained in both social sciences and
humanities. Her work currently focuses on violent conflict and obstacles to
transformative peace processes. Since the signing of Sudan’s Comprehensive
Peace Agreement, she has conducted extensive fieldwork in South Sudan.
Kristof Titeca is a postdoctoral fellow from the Research Foundation –
Flanders (FWO), based at the Institute of Development Policy and Man-
agement, University of Antwerp. His main research interests are informal
cross-border trade on the frontiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Sudan and Uganda; armed movements in central Africa; and the provision of
public services in so-called “failed” states, with specific attention to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has conducted extensive fieldwork
in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
On the South Sudan–Uganda border, decades of violent conflict have de-
termined how people live, move, survive, and interact with each other. The
435-kilometre stretch that connects Uganda’s north with what are today the
Republic of South Sudan’s Eastern and Central Equatoria states has been an
extraordinarily violent place.
In northern Uganda, violence stemmed from the
conflict between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army
(LRA) until 2006, and from the activities of rebel groups such as the Uganda
National Rescue Front (I and II) and the West Nile Bank Front in West Nile
in the 1990s; on the South Sudanese side, decades of consecutive, complex
civil wars, which came to an official end in 2006, influenced all aspects of life.
This paper sets out to show how post-conflict consolidation of local power in
South Sudan shapes how things function along this border and how this in
turn influences what happens in South Sudan. The 2005 Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Sudan and the rebel
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) unsurprisingly had a
major effect. Examining how post-CPA processes and existing and emerging
power structures shaped interactions around the Uganda–Sudan (later South
Sudan) border, the paper aims to disentangle the different groups involved in
these interactions, and their respective power positions. Taking such a per-
spective allows us to refine the argument that state and non-state power
structures in border regions can threaten state authority.
The border dynamics of inclusion and exclusion become particularly
clear when looking at the cross-border trade between South Sudan and
Uganda. From Kampala, the border might seem like a peripheral region at
the margins of Uganda’s territory and state. From South Sudan’s vantage
point, the border emerges as an important centre that ensures that supply
gaps are filled, with vast quantities of goods originating in or passing
through Uganda’s border boomtowns, Gulu and Arua (Yoshino et al. 2012).
The post-CPA demand for goods and state-building processes created a
range of economic opportunities for traders. This was particularly the case
for Ugandan large-scale traders, who became an important and empowered
group. Simultaneously, post-conflict problems have emerged in South Su-
dan, as wartime authority structures determine access to opportunities for
other groups, such as small-scale traders and ordinary citizens, in a tightly
1 In 1999, Kenya’s The Nation ran an article that described this as “the border area
that defies security” (Peter Kamau, Border Area that Defies Security, in: The Nation,
29 June). While recent months have seen greater numbers of civilian deaths in
other parts of Sudan (OCHA 2010), the border remains a source of permanent
low-level conflict that does not necessarily end in killings, but infuses everyday life
with a permanent threat. One such example is the burning down of the market in
Nimule on 1 September 2009.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
regulated, “inconclusive” peace. This paper will show how the particular
authority structures of South Sudan – a military authority with an individ-
ual/local hold on power that still relies on coercive structures – create ten-
sion among a new set of vulnerable groups of people, who either suffer
from these individual practices or do not gain access to these military struc-
tures. Ugandan small-scale traders in particular have become more vulnera-
ble to expressions of authority on the part of South Sudan’s post-CPA state,
in which state or individual military might is used effectively to control
trade. Through an analysis of the organization of cross-border trade and the
dynamics of interactions along the border, this article aims to demonstrate
why the current inconclusive peace in South Sudan maintains structures of
war instead of leading to true peace.
This paper draws on fieldwork data gathered by Schomerus in pre-inde-
pendence southern Sudan between 2006 and 2009, and by Titeca in Uganda
between 2006 and 2012.
For purposes of clarification, pre-independence
southern Sudan will be referred to here as “South Sudan”. In South Sudan,
fieldwork covered rural areas in Western and Eastern Equatoria, including
remote areas, such as the Imatong Mountains, as well as major towns such
as Juba in Central Equatoria and Torit in Eastern Equatoria. In Uganda,
fieldwork was conducted in Arua and the wider West Nile region. Most data
consists of semi-structured interviews with traders, civilians living along the
border, and military and government authorities, supplemented by small-
scale surveys regarding prices of goods. This method adds qualitative
grounding by including often-overlooked personal narratives of those con-
ducting the trade.
Recently, there has been increased awareness in academic circles that view-
ing border regions as the “fringe” is unhelpful, and that borders need special
2 By combining our fieldwork findings, we aim to avoid “methodological territorial-
ism” (Brenner 1999: 46) by taking the borderland, rather than the nation-state, as a
primary unit of analysis. Baud, Van Schendel and Asiwaju support a similar ap-
proach in understanding a borderland as one region across both sides of the bor-
der, rather than two regions divided by a border. See Asiwaju (1993); Baud and van
Schendel (1997).
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
It is argued that borders are also agents of change within the
nation-state, rather than just reflecting changes that occur at the centre
(Donnan and Wilson 1999: 4). In this sense, they are not marginal at all, but
are precisely “where the action is” (Jackson 2006: 426). Strongly state-cen-
tred analyses cannot grasp these dynamics, as they analyse spatial forms and
scales as “self-enclosed geographical units” (van Schendel 2005: 5; Brenner
1999: 45-46). Jackson reminds us that
borderlands are among the principal arenas within which distinct (but
by no means discrete) conflicts taking place within neighbouring
states become entangled within “regional conflict formations” (Jack-
son 2006: 426).
The Uganda–South Sudan border exemplifies such conflict dynamics. A
brief look at its history shows why.
During both Sudanese civil wars, intense intra-Sudanese fighting between
government soldiers, rebel armies and militias took place here. Uganda’s rebel
LRA and the country’s army, the Uganda People’s Defence Force, have
been active on both sides of the border since the 1980s. In a perfect proxy
war, the Ugandan government supported the rebel Sudan People’s Libera-
tion Army (SPLA) soldiers, while in turn the government of Sudan delivered
weapons and supplies to the LRA (Prunier 2004). As a result, Uganda’s army
has had a problematic presence in South Sudan, helping the SPLA and pur-
portedly fighting the LRA (Schomerus 2012). A number of other rebel
groups were part of these “regional conflict formations” as Sudan and
Uganda used proxy rebel groups, as Prunier writes, to run “an undeclared
war on their common border” (Prunier 2004: 359).
After Uganda’s president, Idi Amin, was ousted from power in 1979,
many people from Amin’s home region of West Nile fled across the border
(Titeca 2009). A number of rebel groups – such as the Uganda National
Rescue Front (UNRF) and the Former Uganda National Army (FUNA)
emerged to fight the new regime under Milton Obote. Both groups were
active in West Nile; FUNA actively staged attacks from Sudan against
Uganda, stopping their armed activities in 1986. Soon, new rebel groups
emerged along the border, this time with the support of the Sudanese gov-
ernment, making the border a dangerous place for civilians caught in cross-
border attacks. Of these new rebel groups, the West Nile Bank Front
(WNBF) was active from 1994 to 1998, mainly on Ugandan territory. In
1998, the Uganda National Resistance Front II formed in southern Sudan,
from which it launched attacks into Uganda (Refugee Law Project 2004).
3 A recent UK report highlighted the fact that “the border areas have received lim-
ited and/or belated support” (Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan, 2010: 20).
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
Yet while the border served as a source of tension, it also offered op-
portunities for the population. Despite cross-border attacks, it acted as a
protective line for huge numbers of refugees crossing back and forth,
tated by ethnic links across the border (such as the Kakwa); families began
to settle on both sides of the border. The entire populations of certain
Equatorian villages were displaced to Uganda in heavy fighting during Su-
dan’s civil wars. In the early 1980s, large parts of the population of north-
western Uganda sought shelter from Uganda’s civil war in Sudan. Violence
at times curbed the amount of movement across the border, but never
stopped it entirely.
Historically, trade in the region pre-dates colonial borders. Egyptian
businessmen from Khartoum had been trading with northwestern Uganda
since the late 1830s. Colonization and the introduction of borders made
trade between these groups illegal; trading patterns continued regardless.
Measures to formalize the economy in the colonial and postcolonial period
largely pushed traders toward the informal economy (Meagher 1990: 66).
Cross-border trade and contacts intensified through new cross-border mar-
kets in the late 1970s and 1980s, aided by refugee movements (Titeca 2009).
Currently, both Uganda and South Sudan find themselves in situations of
unreliable peace. Invigorated border trade and the opportunity to move freely
between South Sudan and Uganda without military control are often quoted
by border residents as the benefits of residing near a border and living in
peace. Yet life at the border remains challenging: Security is fallible with un-
predictable movements by home and foreign armies; just a few police officers
and untrained border guards are tasked with tackling armed smuggling. Their
work is made more challenging by the border not being fully demarcated and
because markers such as trees are disputed, limiting civilians’ freedom to move
in disputed areas, with arrests and incursions on both sides of the border.
Unclear immigration regulations, erratic customs charges, and fluctuating
exchange rates make trading across the border very difficult.
However, the border also offers opportunities: Residents identified im-
provements in cross-border trade and employment opportunities, including
access to education and health services, facilitated by easy means of
4 For discussions on aid agencies’ involvement and the history of refugees in the
area, see, for example, Harrell-Bond (1986); Allen (2008) and Leopold (2001).
5 See, for example, South Sudan Accuses Uganda of Moving International Border, in:
New Vision, Uganda, 26 October 2011 or Ronald Batre, Moyo Council Resolves to
Expel Sudanese Nationals, in: Uganda Radio Network, 7 April 2012; Sunrise report-
ers, Gov’t Warned over Rising Tension at Sudan Border, in: Sunrise, 15 September
2011; Simon Waakhe Wudu, South Sudan–Uganda Border Dispute is Threatening,
in: Gurtong, 9 January 2012.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
Some residents of Ikotos County in South Sudan viewed being
part of a cross-border community emerging from war as a unique chance for
international interaction in “a spirit of togetherness”, as a local border offi-
cial from the area expressed it, manifested in joint cultural activities and
cross-border peace initiatives.
On the Ugandan side of the border, residents
of Arua consider the populations on both sides of the border the “same
people with the same interests”.
However, some long-standing community
conflicts have created a volatile and distrustful environment.
In addition,
contrary to the “spirit of togetherness”, cross-border relationships are often
marred by, as a member of a local peace committee in Ikotos County said,
“an attitude of revenge towards one another”, along with language barriers
at times.
An Inconclusive Peace
Hopes that peacetime life at the border would allow civilians reliable access
to resources have mostly been dashed, as residents are experiencing what
might be called an inconclusive peace. The inconclusive peace at the Sudan–
Uganda border is a natural extension of the inner nature of the inconclusive
wars this region has experienced. Kaldor argues that today’s wars are of a
different nature than previous wars, their primary characteristics being that
they are “inconclusive” and have a “different inner nature” than previous
wars, thus a Clausewitzean understanding can be counterproductive, partic-
ularly when examining the role of military forces in inconclusive wars (Kal-
dor 2010). Kaldor refined her earlier conceptualization of new wars as low-
intensity transnational and identity-driven conflicts (Kaldor 2007). She elab-
orated that “new wars” are about “capturing political power rather than
pursuing political programmes” (Kaldor 2010: 279).
6 For a more detailed discussion on trade across this border, see Meagher (1990),
Titeca (2009, 2012), and Titeca and de Herdt (2010). For a history of conflict in this
area, see Allen (1994).
7 Schomerus fieldwork notes, Border Posts Tseretenya/Magwi, Ikotos and Magwi
Counties, June 2008.
8 Focus group discussion with Arua residents (names withheld), facilitated by Titeca,
Arua, 2 October 2008.
9 For example, Ronald Batre, Moyo Council Resolves to Expel Sudanese Nationals,
in: Uganda Radio Network, 7 April 2012; Sunrise reporters, Gov’t Warned over Ris-
ing Tension at Sudan Border, in: Sunrise, 15 September 2011; Simon Waakhe Wudu,
South Sudan–Uganda Border Dispute is Threatening, in: Gurtong, 9 January 2012.
The reasons for this tension will be explained below.
10 Schomerus fieldwork notes, Border Posts Tseretenya/Magwi, Ikotos and Magwi
Counties, June 2008.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
The CPA, following this leitmotiv, has shifted power relations between
the military and civilians in a power consolidation process, rather than rede-
fining them in pursuit of political programmes. In South Sudan, the military
– as represented by both individual soldiers and command structures – re-
mains the defining factor of everyday life, infiltrating every aspect of the
practices that constitute the border, from trade to resource exchange and
security. These practices manifest themselves in official and unofficial and
often violently enforced taxation, as well as real and perceived unequal
trading opportunities. With the official enemy gone, the focus of the military
has turned to controlling resources. This consolidation of military power
structures in an inconclusive peace does not lead to a more effective regula-
tion along the border; instead, this increased military power has what An-
dreas calls its own “border control priorities” (Andreas 2003), in which both
the interests of the state and the personal financial interests of military ac-
tors play an important role. Using the authority structures of war to control
resources during peacetime has proven effective both for wealth accumula-
tion and for establishing rules. What these resources are has changed in
some ways but not in others. New valuable border assets are immigration
stamps, signatures, personal connections or crates of beer. For Ugandans
wanting to transport goods into South Sudan, guaranteeing safe passage
involves making use of rules that existed in wartime and that have been
confirmed in the inconclusive peace.
Processes in post-CPA South Sudan have meant that the Uganda–Sudan
border has become the centre of grass-roots interaction: It is the place where
actors – official representatives and non-state actors alike – from two nation-
states meet. On the Ugandan side, the representatives are largely private trad-
ers. On the South Sudanese side, representatives are mainly soldiers of the
SPLA, which officially represents the state but does not act solely in state
This might be because the central government in Juba did and
does not reach far enough to control the SPLA’s dealings in the state’s bor-
der regions. Yet it seems more likely that the set of military rules in place
along the border is a manifestation of the South Sudanese state as it emerges
This state has two characteristics that are tightly connected to the mili-
tary: The central state draws on existing military structures in which military
men search out new ways to retain their now-official powerful positions.
Individual actors in the military state structure, however, also use this power
11 Fieldwork was mainly conducted prior to South Sudan’s independence during a
time when the SPLA acted as a newly empowered state actor, although individuals
within the SPLA tended to adhere to rules established at a time when the SPLA
was a powerful, armed non-state actor.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
to sidestep the very state structures that are empowering them for personal
gain. This characteristic double structure of South Sudan means that activi-
ties at the border thus do not, as is so often the case, challenge the state’s
power through activity in the margins, but in fact assert what is at the heart
of South Sudan’s state power: a broader military authority with an individu-
alized and localized hold on power. This gives power to the state and to the
military and allows for a relatively quick process of introducing state struc-
tures. Yet because they draw on past wartime authority structures, these
structures are not necessarily legitimate in the eyes of citizens. This is not
surprising, as state-building is a naturally exclusive process that involves on-
going negotiations to translate coercion or power into legitimacy. Legitimacy
is thus often based on obedience and recognition rather than physical force
(Hagmann and Péclard 2010: 543).
A New Power Centre on the Frontier
The development of a strengthened power centre on the Uganda–Sudan
border since the CPA was signed can be witnessed in daily dealings between
travellers, migrants, refugees and returnees, buyers and sellers, and control-
lers. This is a space of continuous negotiation in which fortune-seeking
opportunists as well as political opponents try to evade state regulation and
control, while others try to exert just that. Tension appears when power is
achieved or consolidated. With the CPA, South Sudan began its path toward
sovereign statehood with its own international borders, established in 2011
after a referendum on independence from Sudan. South Sudan’s border with
what is now the Republic of Sudan is likely to remain the country’s most
volatile international border for a long time; in turn, the border with Uganda
has gained tremendous importance as South Sudan’s most reliable supply
line. For cross-border trade, the signing of the CPA has created significant
opportunities in two ways: It has facilitated vibrant trade activities in areas
that had been largely dormant due to the war, and, crucially, peace in South
Sudan has significantly increased the demand for goods. The capital, Juba, is
attracting vast numbers of returnees, people seeking opportunities in the
city, and supply-hungry aid agencies (see Keen and Lee 2007: 12-13). This
border now provides what Vlassenroot and Buscher call “attractive spaces
of opportunity” (Vlassenroot and Buscher 2009: 3).
Reliable and safe roads are still scarce, limiting agricultural production
and distribution of produce in a country with strong regional production vari-
ations. South Sudanese production cannot meet the demand for goods; the
closing of the north–south border in 2011 due to conflict between the two
Sudans means that all foreign goods now come over the southern border.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
Goods mainly originate from Uganda, or from Kenya, where they are either
locally produced, or enter Uganda through Mombasa (having originated for
the most part in the Far East). Both formal and informal exports from
Uganda to Sudan have skyrocketed since the CPA went into effect. According
to the permanent secretary of the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism, Trade and
Industry, southern Sudan represented almost 40 per cent of the Ugandan
export market in 2011.
In 2008, Sudan was by far Uganda’s most important
export destination, taking in 68.9 per cent of Uganda’s total exports.
Informal exports to Sudan have grown enormously over the years,
from 9.1 million USD in 2005 to 456.4 million USD in 2007 and 929.9 mil-
lion USD in 2008. Formal exports increased, but less dramatically, from
50.5 million USD in 2005 to 245.9 million USD in 2008. In short, formal
exports to Sudan have increased five-fold while informal exports increased
100-fold (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2009).
In 2008 Uganda exported
agricultural goods worth 111.5 million USD and industrial goods worth
816.1 million USD – together accounting for 68.9 per cent of Uganda’s
exports (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2009: 15). As soon as security had
improved in the post-CPA situation, a large number of Ugandans flocked
into southern Sudan, trading a wide variety of goods for consumption (for
example, beer, water, general foodstuffs) and construction goods (for exam-
ple, cement, iron sheets) (Yoshino et al. 2012: 43-45).
However, as we will explain in detail below, tensions that arose from
the trade relationship and the volatile political situation within South Sudan
have affected the trade relationship between the two states. After an initial
post-CPA boom, exports from Uganda to South Sudan significantly reduced
starting in 2010. While formal exports remained at similar levels (Yoshino et
al. 2012: 44-45), informal exports strongly decreased, from 448.48 mil-
lion USD in 2009 to 196.9 million USD in 2010 (UBOS 2011). One reason
for this is unaddressed tensions at the border between Ugandan small-scale
traders and South Sudanese state and non-state actors.
In the period immediately following the signing of the CPA, northern
Ugandan small-scale traders dominated the cross-border trade: They lived
close to the border, there were historical connections between the regions
on either side, and these small-scale Ugandan traders also lacked other op-
12 M. Strike, The South’s Trading Trajectory, in: The Independent, Uganda, 8 July 2011.
13 As summarized by a Ugandan trader: “We want the government to come out
clearly – too many traders have lost their lives. But the government is protecting
South Sudan! Sudan does what it wants. Uganda only looks at Sudan as a hub for
its products” (Interview with trader, conducted by Titeca, Arua, 19 May 2012).
14 Although this major increase could also signify improved methods to track infor-
mal exports, it still highlights the huge increase in informal trade.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
portunities. Yet traders from other parts of Uganda soon became aware of
the opportunities that were arising. The number of South Sudanese traders
has since increased – some of them not only getting their supplies from
northern Uganda but even travelling as far as the major supply points in
Kampala and Kenya – but non-South Sudanese traders continue to play an
important role.
Theoretically, increased trade ought to be good news: It is widely agreed
that trade has the potential to bring economic development and strengthen
links between communities. This is particularly useful in a post-conflict situ-
ation needing a foundation for peace and reconciliation (Carrington 2009).
However, Carrington writes that in this particular case Ugandan traders
perceived trade to be “conducted unfairly, […] exploitative in nature, [and]
dominated by or serving the interests of a select elite” or that it “[is] margin-
alizing specific groups [and] risks fuelling unresolved tensions and creating
new conflict dynamics” (Carrington 2009: 7). Specifically, southern Sudanese
have negative feelings toward foreigners (particularly Ugandans) and toward
elites for dominating the trade.
Southern Sudanese civilians find it extremely difficult to access trade op-
portunities since they have little to offer and can see no employment opportu-
nities beyond trade. They struggle to engage with the inherently exclusive
structures of an inconclusive peace.
A civil society representative from the
South Sudanese border region said during a 2008 cross-border conference in
Arua that “there are very [few] chances for the ordinary Sudanese in the
cross-border trade”.
The few goods that South Sudanese can offer are not
easily traded: For example, taking a few chickens across the border to ex-
change them for manufactured goods such as soap is extremely costly due to
seemingly random taxation and customs charges and controlled immigration
fees (Yoshino et al. 2012: 44-50). At different times, cross-border regulations
have included the following: In 2008, each Sudanese who crossed the border
had to pay the Ugandan authorities 25,000 UGX – unless visibly ill – even if
the person crossing the border was a student returning for education. Suda-
nese small-scale traders reported that additional charges and customs were
15 All of the traders involved deal in similar goods (consumption and construction
goods): There is no division among the different nationalities.
16 Sudanese are particularly angered by the fact that the Ugandans are also active in
small-scale trade (tea-selling, chapati-selling, etc.), as they feel that at least these mi-
nor activities should be left to them.
17 For a more detailed discussion of these issues, please refer to Mareike Schomerus
18 Interview with a Sudanese border resident at cross-border conference in Arua,
conducted by Titeca, 2 October 2008.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
highly unpredictable, curbing most small-scale trade.
Moreover, the Ugandan
shilling remains the more powerful currency for trading along the border area,
putting Sudanese at a disadvantage. Money exchange is dominated by Ugan-
dans. The exchange rate became even more unfavourable for Sudanese fol-
lowing the 2007 replacement of the dinar by the pound (SDG), whose future
is uncertain. Currency issues and rising prices – some connected to local trade
structures, others influenced by world market developments – taint the rela-
tionship between the two countries on a hyperlocal level.
In turn, Ugandans claim that they are targeted by the South Sudanese;
reports of Ugandan traders being arrested, intimidated, harassed and even
raped are common.
While the border is profitable for Ugandan traders, the
inconclusive peace also makes them vulnerable when South Sudan’s state
authority is asserted through the military. Many traders crossing the border
tell horrendous stories of their mistreatment by South Sudanese security
The list of specific complaints is long. According to Joint Ac-
tion for the Redemption of Traders in Southern Sudan (JARUT) – an um-
brella organization for Ugandan traders in South Sudan – Ugandan traders are
faced with “murder, torture, robbery and non-payment of owed monies by,
among others, GOSS government agencies/officials and the military”.
reports have claims about “SPLA members raping Ugandan businesswomen,
19 For example, in June 2008 a crate of beer incurred customs charges of 40,000
UGX. A crate usually sells in Juba for 62,500 UGX. The result is that local small-
scale trading, which could be a stabilizing factor in the border region, is discour-
aged. In addition, currency trading has further discouraged small-scale trading in
goods as trading currencies becomes more profitable due to high customs charges
on goods (Schomerus fieldwork notes, Border Posts Tseretenya/Magwi, Ikotos and
Magwi Counties, June 2008).
20 Human Rights Watch, “There is no protection”: Insecurity and Human Rights in South-
ern Sudan, New York, February 2009; C. Bwogi, Over 20 Ugandans Killed in Sudan,
in: New Vision, 12 September 2007; C. Musoke and J. Odyek, Govt Urged on Report
on Ugandans Killed in Sudan, in: New Vision, 20 September 2007; New Vision, Ugan-
dan Traders in Juba Attacked, 19 February 2008; New Vision, Ugandans Will Benefit
from Investing in Sudan, 25 September 2007; H. Sekanjako, Sudanese Warned against
Mistreating Ugandans, in: New Vision, 6 June 2011; P. Kagenda, Uganda Traders
Threaten to Blockade South Sudan, in: The Independent, 8 December 2009.
21 The situation is considered so bad that it led to the visit of a Ugandan government
delegation to Juba; C. Musoke and J. Namutebi, Uganda: Government to Probe
Juba Harassment, in: New Vision, 26 September 2007. Further meetings were held
between Sudanese authorities and those of individual Ugandan districts; for exam-
ple, in 2008 Sudanese authorities met with authorities from Arua District. Meetings
have also been held in Yei, South Sudan.
22 P. Muwonge, Uganda–Sudan Trade Turns Ugly, in: The Sunrise, 20 May 2010.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
ambushing trucks, and refusing to pay for goods they have consumed”.
newspaper article stated: “Southern Sudan’s capital of Juba has turned into a
death trap for traders from Uganda and other states.”
Having property illegally confiscated is common. The experience of
one man who lost a motorbike after soldiers accused him of stealing it is
typical. He was severely beaten with a stone and whipped across his back;
another deep wound was inflicted on his head. During the beating, the at-
tackers kept shouting “Uganda, Uganda”. Having spent three days in prison,
he was released after paying 50 SDG (25 USD) to a police officer who did
not issue a receipt or official release papers. He was later told that without
official release papers, he would not be able to reclaim the motorbike, which
was now being “used by the police”.
Another Ugandan taxi driver tells the story how he was kept in custody
by soldiers in uniform who accused him of being complicit in a theft:
They took me down and removed my shoes, my shirt, my belt. They
said whatever you have, you give us, money and documents […].
They started beating me. They said “Don’t you know, we are all sol-
diers here.” It was eight men beating me. They put pistols in my
mouth and in my ears and somewhere else. They then told me to call
my parents and tell my parents that my life is over. After I called my
mum, they switched off my phone. They told me they will kill me
[…]. They told me they are soldiers, they can do anything.
According to the chairman of the Ugandan Traders Association in Juba, in
the first eight months of 2007, at least 20 Ugandans died in southern Sudan
at the hands of Sudanese security personnel.
The problem was acknowl-
edged at the time by the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission
(SSHRC), who kept track of cases of killings of Ugandan traders in Juba’s
Customs Market and Konyo-Konyo Market. A string of rapes of Ugandan
women in the markets was reported and monitored by the SSHRC in 2008.
“The question that needs to be answered is,” said then-Human Rights
Commissioner Joy Kwaje, “is it systematic, organized, criminal?”
23 M. Doya and F. Oluoch, Ugandan Traders Leave Southern Sudan amid Election
Tension and Violence, in: The East African, 12 April 2010.
24 Inter Press Service, Ugandan traders face attack in Sudan, 19 November 2008.
25 Interview with Ugandan trader (name and details withheld), conducted by
Schomerus (with translator), Juba, 27 March 2008.
26 Interview with Ugandan taxi driver (name and details withheld), conducted by
Schomerus (with translator), Juba, 27 March 2008.
27 New Vision, “Ugandan traders raped in Sudan”, 18 September 2007.
28 Interview with Joy Kwaje, government of Southern Sudan human rights commis-
sioner, conducted by Schomerus, Juba, 18 March 2008.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
In February 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed be-
tween the trade ministries of Uganda and southern Sudan to address the
difficulties. In April 2010, a petition addressing the dangers of doing busi-
ness in southern Sudan that was signed by Ugandan traders in Sudan was
filed in the Ugandan parliament.
According to the petition, “many influen-
tial Southern Sudanese have assaulted and killed Ugandan business people
with impunity, and thrown hundreds more in jail on trumped-up charges”.
Ugandan traders feel that reporting their cases could endanger their position
even more because Sudanese security agencies are seen as complicit. There
is a general feeling that Ugandan traders in South Sudan are denied justice.
“When you go to the military police, you always fail to get assistance,” said
the chairman of the Ugandan Traders Association. “At times, you find no-
where to get help.”
In August 2011, just after South Sudan’s independ-
ence, the Ugandan Ministry of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives estab-
lished an arbitration committee to handle the complaints of the Ugandan
Roles of Small- and Large-scale Trading
These petitions, Memoranda of Understanding, and arbitration committees
have, however, had a limited effect on the ground, as the position of small-
scale Ugandan traders remains very precarious. As a consequence, the trad-
ers express the sentiment that the Ugandan government has not put enough
effort into addressing their problems and has abandoned them. Traders and
analysts both argue that this is because Uganda does not want to jeopardize
its political and economic relationship with South Sudan.
With formal and informal export figures decreasing, the problems ex-
perienced by small-scale traders ought to be a priority for Uganda’s govern-
ment. That the response has been limp implies that other interests are at
29 P. Muwonge, Uganda–Sudan Trade Turns Ugly, in: The Sunrise, 20 May 2010.
30 M. Doya and F. Oluoch, Ugandan Traders Leave Southern Sudan amid Election
Tension and Violence, in: The East African, 12 April 2010.
31 P. Kagenda, Ugandan Traders Threaten to Block Sudan, in: The Independent,
8 December 2009.
32 Interview with Ugandan Traders Association official (name and details withheld),
conducted by Schomerus, Juba, 27 March 2008. Another example is given by the
chairman of the Ugandan business community, who claims in an interview with The
Independent that he was detained for six months in a military detention camp when
he refused to hand over his truck to a Sudanese major (P. Kagenda, Ugandan Trad-
ers Threaten to Block Sudan, in: The Independent, 8 December 2009).
33 Abimanyi, John, The Tragedy of Ugandan Traders in Sudan, in: Daily Monitor,
23 May 2012.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
stake. Small-scale traders have clearly spelled out what they believe these
interests to be: They argue that the Ugandan government is acting primarily
to protect the interests of large-scale traders, who often work closely with
SPLA officials and Ugandan government officials. In this situation, large-
scale traders are in a better position than small-scale traders to trade their
goods along the border. Further, when South Sudan puts out a procurement
tender – for example, to deliver goods or do construction work – large-scale
traders, Ugandan government officials and SPLA officials participate jointly
in business. At the heart of what Roitman (2005) calls this “military–com-
mercial nexus” are high-level SPLA officials who determine access to the
South Sudanese economic space for Ugandan officials and large-scale Ugan-
dan traders. With all three actors sharing profits, such business naturally
receives better protection.
An example of favouring of large-scale traders over small-scale traders
can be found in the activities of the above-mentioned arbitration committee
created to handle the Ugandan traders’ complaints. South Sudan has agreed
to pay 41 million USD in compensation to the Ugandan traders;
scale traders complain that they had not been paid. The Joint Action for
Redemption of Ugandan Traders in Sudan (JARUTS) instead claims that
only large-scale traders benefitted:
There are some traders who are in contact with government officials
who happen to be key business allies with the ruling clique of the Su-
danese government. So they identify some people for payment in
South Sudan by giving them documents to present in Juba and they
have their money. But some of us who are unlucky not to know any-
one are still stuck moving up and down for our money.
34 Sudan Tribune, Ugandan Traders Seek $41m Compensation from S. Sudan, 2 January
2012; Jocelyn Edwards, Unwanted in Juba, in: The Independent, 21 April 2012.
35 Sunrise reporters (2011), “We shall die with Sudanese”, Ugandan traders vow, in:
Sunrise, 26 August 2011. On another occasion JARUTS had argued, “Only four peo-
ple who are deemed big or influential were duly paid their money by the South Suda-
nese government with assistance from our very government, and some of us small
traders were left out until now. What’s shocking and annoying is that we were on the
same list of compensation together with the four individuals,” Stepehn Bwire, Gov-
ernment Compensates only 4 Ugandan Traders, in: Youthlink News, 6 June 2012,
online: <>, (18 June 2012). An-
other trader summarized this in the following way during an interview: “The govern-
ment only takes care of the big people who are involved in this trade. […] The gov-
ernment only says that they are mounting pressure, but nothing happens. It [is] the big
people who do business [who] are protected, while the smaller ones lose a lot of
money. They don’t care about the small people’s money” (interview with trader, con-
ducted by Titeca, Arua, 20 May 2012).
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
The trade involvement of Ugandan government officials builds on the long
history of support of the SPLA; similar trade patterns between Ugandan
traders, Ugandan government officials and SPLA elements occurred in the
Additionally, Ugandan government officials have been involved since
the mid-1990s in cross-border trade through large-scale traders
in other
parts of Uganda – for example, on the Uganda–DR Congo border (Titeca
2011, 2012). As beneficiaries of the murky areas of regulation an inconclu-
sive peace brings, large-scale traders, Ugandan government officials, and
SPLA officials have no incentives to change the current situation to create a
safer environment for small-scale traders.
Tension and Hostilities
Frustration among small-scale Ugandan traders has fuelled hostility between
Ugandan and Sudanese nationals in South Sudan as well as in Uganda.
When a Ugandan driver was killed in Sudan by South Sudanese, major
clashes ensued on the Ugandan side of the border, particularly in the driver’s
Ugandan home district of Koboko. South Sudanese became the targets of
violence and had to seek police protection. In these clashes, several South
Sudanese were killed.
Similar incidents occurred in other areas on the
Ugandan side of the border.
In September 2009, residents of Uganda’s
Moyo District demonstrated against the presence of Sudanese, shut down
Sudanese-owned shops, closed down the border point in order to prevent
Sudanese from entering Uganda, and attempted to attack Sudanese patients
in the hospital. The event was sparked by the perception that SPLA soldiers
were harassing people in the district, and specifically by an alleged attack by
SPLA elements in a land dispute with residents. These events are particularly
problematic for the many Sudanese civilians in Uganda, many of whom have
been living in the area for two decades, but are now for the first time being
36 For example, fuel traders from Arua and Ugandan military officials were trading
fuel to SPLA units in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Titeca 2006).
37 Reports are not clear as to whether two or four people were killed.
38 Focus group discussion with Koboko civil society representatives and traders
(names and details withheld) at the cross-border conference on security, IKV Pax
Christi, facilitated by Titeca, 2 October 2008. Fieldwork observations, Titeca, Arua,
39 Cf. E. Draku and F. Mugabi, Moyo Riots over Border, in: New Vision, 2 September
2009; Sunday Tribune, Ugandan Rioters Attack Sudanese after Border Dispute,
3 September 2009; M. Okudi, T. Butagira, S. Akello and W. F. Okello, Sudanese
Border Shut, in: The Monitor, 3 September 2009.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
Supporting Military Structures for Protection
Finding themselves in a precarious situation with no state support, small-
scale Ugandan traders are trying to develop protection mechanisms by ap-
peasing SPLA soldiers. Crucially, they are investing considerable amounts of
money to connect with SPLA soldiers by paying to cross border points or
roadblocks from the border to the major trading points.
SPLA officers
shelter traders in several ways. Escorting a goods convoy through border
posts and roadblocks is the most obvious technique. Another common
method is that an SPLA officer will inform SPLA soldiers and South Sudanese
border officials whenever a delivery is imminent. This protects goods and
traders from harassment and exempts the goods from revenue payments.
Higher-ranking SPLA personnel commonly sign documents that indicate
that a goods truck is their personal property. Lower-ranking SPLA soldiers
will then allow the goods to pass into South Sudan without a problem.
It is a well-known fact that this is a lucrative collaboration. A southern
Sudanese government official said that it is seen as particularly attractive to
be stationed within the SPLA border points because much profit can be
made there.
Traders prefer to pay bribes than be abused by soldiers; they
fear SPLA soldiers who are known for their violent behaviour.
During a
discussion with Ugandan cross-border traders, the traders concluded,
“[South] Sudan is a new country, but the law is in the hands of the soldiers!
They do whatever they like.”
Andrew, a Ugandan trader who trades in
drinks to South Sudan, has made these structures work for him:
40 In this context, Carrington (2009: 24) speaks about the existence of “protection
rackets”, in which foreign traders “[enter] into agreements with senior military or
security figures in Southern Sudan to receive protection or enjoy special status”.
While this statement is certainly true, it seems to suggest that engagement with Su-
danese officials only happens with bigger traders. We argue that this occurs with all
kinds of traders.
41 Individual traders can be charged between 5,000 and 20,000 UGX; groups might
pay up to 300,000 UGX. Interview with Ugandan trader (name and details with-
held), conducted by Schomerus (with translator), Juba, 27 March 2008.
42 As a Ugandan trader summarizes, “In Juba, you have to bribe. Even a kid there has a
gun. For no reason, they can confiscate your goods. They take the law in their hands.
You have to pay to avoid this!” Interview with Ugandan trader (details withheld),
conducted by Titeca, Arua, 22 January 2008. With unlimited quantities of light weap-
ons in southern Sudan, trade is insecure; these weapons make it easier to threaten
43 Focus group discussion with Ugandan traders (names withheld), facilitated by
Titeca, Arua, 30 September 2008.
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
I have a Sudanese friend, a higher military [SPLA member] who helps
my business in many ways. He introduced me to the people of the
revenue and the soldiers: These are behaving rough, and he offers me
some protection. This is just a friend which you get! When you trust
one, they introduce you to his friends. They call it “protection”: When
you go, they take you to the safe places; they introduce you to the el-
ders, to the government officials. They introduce you to the person
who is in charge.
The situation for traders is dangerous and unpredictable, but there are ways
to navigate the waters with the SPLA soldiers. As a result, different levels of
South Sudanese military officials engage in different kinds of cross-border
activities: Lower-level military officials (soldiers) use the inconclusive peace to
ask for bribes; middle- and higher-level officials collaborate with large-scale
traders in more consistent business arrangements. The often rather murky
command structure of the SPLA exacerbates the struggle for control as it is
often not clear to whom exactly individual military men answer. In sum, the
combination of unclear command structures, lucrative business opportuni-
ties and a lack of alternative income opportunities creates an incentive for
those in control to maintain the current situation of an inconclusive peace
with its military structures. While insecurity and violence happen almost as a
by-product of these entrenched business arrangements, they are also mani-
festations of the post-CPA nature of South Sudan’s inconclusive peace.
Since the CPA was signed, the SPLA/M has been struggling to make
significant strides toward reducing military behaviour as a political tool; their
commitment to building a democratic state was questioned early on (see, for
example, Metelits 2004). Kalpakian has argued that a transition from military
group to political party is still a long way off for the SPLA/M (Kalpakian
2008). Others – for example, Rolandsen – find that the SPLA has under-
gone significant transformations and mastered difficult situations (Roland-
sen 2005). The reality is that in most cases, exerting military power, even in
peacetime, makes for better living conditions for the soldiers. In an incon-
clusive peace this means that military actors retain a strong influence on
political realities, while they, as Gazit writes, constitute “the primary manu-
facturers and managers of localized temporal cores of power” (Gazit 2009:
88). South Sudanese residents along the border talk about the power of the
military and its influence on their everyday lives. It is generally seen as an
assertion of the nature of South Sudan, rather than a movement toward
changing this very nature.
44 Interview with drinks trader (name withheld), conducted by Titeca, Arua, 28 January
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
Manifestations of post-conflict power in South Sudan raise questions
about who is or is not a state actor. With South Sudan now a sovereign state
and numerous programmes underway to reform the SPLA into a profes-
sional army, soldiers are officially state representatives. In reality, however,
soldiers in units far away from central command often violate state rules;
such violations on the border are, as discussed above, most often manifested
in taxation by soldiers. An easy assumption would be that the SPLA in bor-
der regions acts in these ways because they are disconnected from the centre
of power in Juba. That Juba has evolved as a power centre since the signing
of the CPA is a logical development, as a new government first had to be set
up, which, by definition, involved creating a power centre (Temin 2009).
South Sudan’s theoretical emphasis on decentralization to counter the mar-
ginalization that was at the heart of both Sudanese civil wars has been re-
peatedly stressed (Awet Akot 2006). From that point of view, the independ-
ent actions of state actors from Juba might be seen as early, if unregulated,
signs of decentralization. However, in reality what happens on the Sudan–
Uganda border is an assertion of the nature of the South Sudanese state.
Looking at borders as areas in which the state’s authority is challenged is
misleading in this case. Rather than empowering the border region in a de-
centralized way, the power exerted by military actors entrenches existing
patterns of the state. Englebert and Tull suggest that “reconstruction is the
continuation of war and competition for resources by new means” (Eng-
lebert and Tull 2008: 107) and in the highly militarized border area, military
personnel have entrenched the power structures of war for their benefit in
While maintaining control of the border and its trade is an effective
way for military men to retain their powerful positions, it is also a mirror
image of the reality of the South Sudanese state, which remains largely
driven by military structures. This reflects developments on the central-state
level: Peacetime is run like a wartime project and whoever has a gun or mil-
itary connections can assert control over not only prices, but also access to
and value of resources. Ron (2000: 610 and 617) argues that borders are
“tools of statecraft” which help elites to “implant notions of state legitimacy
in the minds of relevant audiences”. While this might be a positive process
that helps build durable institutions and stabilize peace agreements, on the
South Sudan–Uganda border the “tools of statecraft” are very much mili-
tary. Moreover, as we discussed earlier, these military structures of power
engender particular processes of inclusion and exclusion, which are particu-
larly visible at the border and in cross-border trade. These processes are not
one-dimensional: While Ugandan traders in general gain from the trade,
small-scale traders suffer the negative consequences of it. These processes
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
of winners and losers manifest themselves not only along socio-economic
lines, but also spatially.
Interviewees said that in the past, the border allowed them access to
markets in Kitgum and Lira in Uganda, which were good places with many
goods on offer and willing buyers. Today the biggest market is Juba, and
most goods around the border tend to end up there, leaving border resi-
dents with supply shortages. Particularly in Eastern Equatoria, residents
were reminded of wartime when power and resources were centred around
Khartoum (Schomerus 2008a). Soldiers taking control of the border and its
trade are generally perceived to act solely in Juba’s interest. This has impli-
cations for the SPLA/M’s image among the local population in Sudan who
do not share tribal or party membership connections, but see the SPLA/M
as being as hostile to their interests as was Khartoum (Branch and Mampilly
2005; Schomerus 2008b). This feeds the perception that the SPLA/M alone
wants to claim ownership of South Sudan’s peace, including its benefits.
For most ordinary citizens, the benefits of international trade are firmly
concentrated on the Ugandan side of the border, and more particularly in
Uganda’s “border boomtowns”. The town of Arua (in northwestern Uganda)
illustrates the consequences of this unequal relationship: It attracts traders
from Uganda, Congo and other areas; South Sudanese come here to buy
Since the CPA took effect, a daytime population of about 150,000
has been crowding the town.
About ten supermarkets, along with several
banks, have opened. For Ugandans who have money to pay for border
charges and who have goods purchased in northeastern DR Congo or
Uganda to trade, the CPA has turned the border into a golden opportunity
(Titeca 2009).
Yet, this opportunity also creates particular processes of exclusion:
Arua was unprepared for the vibrant trade and the increase in population
following the signing of the CPA. Rather than being an example of a town
that is becoming more peaceful thanks to growing cross-border trade, the
town is suffering negative consequences, most notably a severe strain on
public services. The national government had budgeted for its service provi-
sion based on the results and estimates of the 2002 national census, which
45 The district chairman summarizes the impact of trade with Sudan as follows: “Arua
is a hub attracting trade and investment! Arua has been overwhelmed with work.
There are so many people coming, there is an influx of people! There is an explo-
sion of business!” Interview with LC 5 chairman, conducted by Titeca, Arua, 31
January 2008.
46 According to the 2002 population census, Arua was expected to have 65,400
inhabitants in 2008, but these numbers have most likely long been surpassed (Arua
District Local Government 2007).
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
showed a population less than one-third (45,000) of the current daytime
population. When the district suffered a meningitis outbreak in 2007, district
personnel ordered vaccinations for 180,000 people. Approximately 270,000
people turned up to be inoculated.
Many South Sudanese have settled in
Arua to take advantage of the functioning schools, which has further
stretched the already-strained education system. Public services such as
water, garbage collection (the responsibility of two small municipal lorries)
and medical services are overwhelmed. Heavy day and cross-border traffic
means that roads are in permanent need of repair.
Increased demand for goods from South Sudan has affected prices of a
wide variety of goods, at times creating shortages on the Ugandan side of the
border, as goods are exported to South Sudan. This can lead to microinflation.
When, for example, a Sudanese trader bought almost all the fish at Gulu’s fish
market to take it to South Sudan, fish prices in the area skyrocketed (Carring-
ton 2009: 19). While price increases are most dramatic in the border area, the
increased trade in foodstuffs has a domino effect on food prices all over
In Arua, prices of foodstuffs have risen by 26.3 per cent, considera-
bly more than the national average of 13.6 per cent (or 12.3 per cent recorded
in Kampala) (UBOS 2009).
The trend is similar for other goods such as
beverages, tobacco, clothing, footwear and even transport. In Arua, where
transport to post-CPA Sudan is in high demand, transport costs have risen on
average 33.6 per cent, compared to 17.5 per cent in Kampala (16.6 per cent
nationally) (UBOS 2009). The situation in these border towns is repeated in
other towns on both sides of the Uganda–Sudan border: Similar increases in
prices can be observed on the Sudanese side of the border, exacerbated by a
global increase in food prices. In Madi Opei, a 50-kilogramme bag of grain
cost 18,000 UGX in June 2008. The same quantity was sold six months earlier
for just 10,000 UGX. The price of maize had increased from 5,000 UGX in
47 Titeca fieldwork notes, Interviews District Planning Department, Arua, 25 Febru-
ary 2008.
48 T. Benson, S. Mugarura and K. Wanda, Uganda Bans Food Exports to South
Sudan – Report, in: Sudan Tribune, 30 August 2009; N.A. Garang, South
Seeks Alternatives to Reduce Food Prices, Sudan Tribune, 27 November 2009.
49 These findings are reflected in data on consumer prices, which have increased
greatly in Ugandan border towns: In Arua in the financial year 2007/2008, there
was a total increase of 19.6 per cent from 2005/2006. In Gulu, another border
town, prices had increased 18 per cent, while the average national increase was less
than half of that: 7.1 per cent (UBOS 2009).
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
2003 to 30,000 UGX in 2006, when Juba became accessible; customs duty per
bag was raised from 2,000 UGX to 5,000 UGX.
Price and trade developments meant that, effectively, border popula-
tions on both sides became worse off. The increase in food prices, the de-
valuation of the currency and the pull towards Juba means that border resi-
dents now pay crippling prices for basic goods. Low-income South Suda-
nese, by far the biggest group of people living near the border, have few
opportunities to engage in the cross-border trade and are facing additional
difficulties because their incomes have barely changed. Traders running
kiosks and small retail shops are forced to leave Arua town for the outskirts
as they cannot afford the higher rents.
This presents the greatest challenge
to people residing in towns with no access to agricultural land, as they do
not have the option of subsistence farming and their options to engage in
trade are also limited. In this situation, the picture that emerges is that cross-
border trade is far from a stabilizing factor: There is a strong perception that
because of unequal access to trade, the benefits of peace are distributed
unequally. This is the case for both the Sudanese and the Ugandans who do
not have the resources to access this cross-border trade, and suffer the neg-
ative consequences of it.
In the long run, this situation may well have detrimental effects, because
the concentration of power in one area makes it more challenging for other
regions to implement their own development measures. Roden pointed this
out as a potential problem in Sudan when the Addis Ababa agreement was
signed, quoting Myrdal and Hirschman’s concept that the “polarization ef-
fect”, the need to attract more growth resources, significantly reduces growth
opportunities for other regions, which generally do not experience a trickle-
down effect (Roden 1974: 498). The result is imbalanced development. Similar
effects are being seen today in this border region.
The South Sudan–Uganda border region has been undergoing great changes
in the post-CPA period. Groups of people have become empowered to
create new and exclusive enclaves along the border in a manifestation of the
nature of South Sudan and its interactions with neighbouring non-state
actors. What has emerged for the residents along the border and traders
50 Schomerus fieldwork notes, Border Posts Tseretenya/Magwi, Ikotos and Magwi
Counties, June 2008. When compared with the Ugandan data on prices, the Suda-
nese data are more limited.
51 Titeca fieldwork data, Arua, 2008–2009.
Mareike Schomerus and Kristof Titeca
passing over the border is an inconclusive peace in which existing war
structures are maintained or strengthened. This inconclusive peace has cer-
tainly generated a number of positive consequences: Security has improved
considerably; cross-border trade yields substantial profits. Yet power dy-
namics since the CPA also mean that for some, trade furthers inequality and
maintains instability. Many of the border regulations are unclear; traders are
at risk of being harassed and/or having their goods confiscated by SPLA
soldiers. Peace, in the experience of most civilians, has become an extension
of the military’s power; opportunities are afforded to very few people. Most
opportunities are created by accessing the still-existing structures of war
through bribery or collaboration with soldiers; maintaining these structures
entrenches the inconclusive peace. Those who do not have access to these
structures experience life as unpredictable, unstable and unsafe. Currently,
power-holders operating at the geographical margins of the two states are in
danger of pushing everyone else aside – for example, by treating small-scale
traders unfairly, through unregulated behaviour by SPLA soldiers, and by
excluding ordinary civilians. This creates violent tensions on both sides of
the border, fuelling exclusion with possibly explosive consequences – par-
ticularly in South Sudan, where groups are extremely sensitive to further
This article has attempted to show how struggles over access to trade
opportunities maintain the inconclusive nature of the peace, as increased
opportunities lead to greater assertion of wartime military power and exclu-
sion. Since in South Sudan military power tends to be synonymous with
state power, the South Sudan–Uganda border presents a particular challenge
in peace- and state-building, causing ripple effects of the peace agreement
for people living on both sides of the border. That these effects are not
always positive highlights the great challenge of implementing peace in a way
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Geschäfte und Deals: Gefährdeter Frieden und riskante Handels-
beziehungen entlang der südsudanesisch-ugandischen Grenze
Zusammenfassung: Seit Unterzeichnung des Comprehensive Peace Ag-
reement (CPA) im Sudan hat sich die Grenze zwischen Südsudan und
Uganda zu einem lebendigen Drehkreuz entwickelt. Gestützt auf eigene
Feldforschungen stellen die Autoren die Entwicklungen in den Grenzregio-
nen beider Länder dar, wo seit Abschluss des CPA neue Machtzentren ent-
standen sind. In den alltäglichen Geschäftsbeziehungen entlang der Grenze
dominieren allerdings militärische Akteure. Im konkreten Fall von Arua und
der südsudanesisch-ugandischen Grenze bestimmen Machtstrukturen aus
Kriegszeiten den Zugang zu Handelsgelegenheiten, die in der Nachkriegs-
phase noch starken Regulierungen unterliegen. Ugandische Kleinhändler
Trade along the South Sudan–Uganda Border
für die Versorgung des Südsudan von zentraler Bedeutung – sind in dieser
Situation zunehmend durch Eingriffe der neuen südsudanesischen Staats-
macht gefährdet. Die Erfahrungen der Händler aus Arua stellen den breiten
Konsens infrage, grenzübergreifender Handel sei für einen Friedensprozess
grundsätzlich förderlich. Die Autoren kommen zu dem Schluss, dass Han-
delsbeziehungen nicht in jedem Fall dazu beitragen, ein friedliches Umfeld
für die gesamte Bevölkerung zu schaffen.
Schlagwörter: dsudan, Uganda, Friedensprozess, Transithandel
... Hoekman and Nicita (2011) confirm this argument in which they indicate that middle income countries enjoy more favorable market access in DCs. 10 By and large, the problem of endogeneity resulting from reverse causality requires more than the use of fixed effects in accounting for it. In many cases, the recommended standard approach is the use of instrumental variables in a two-stage regression. ...
... The anticipation of these uncertainties can dampen exports to US markets. 10 However, in the ACP group of states, we are looking at a group of countries about the same level of development. This is evidenced in the low standard deviation (1.03) of log GDP per capita, which is six times the mean (6.21). ...
... Productivity is measured using either a direct procedure based on labour productivity, output or value added or an indirect estimate of total factor productivity (TFP). 10 There is no consensus on the appropriateness of the direct versus the indirect approach. In our case, estimation of TFP would be very much restricted due to the time dimension of our data. ...
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... Administrative feasibility of the IS taxation policy will be a product of a continuum of factors such as tax rates, governance quality, economic environment, institutional quality, norms and tax morale among others. According to Brink & Porcano (2016) and Schomerus and Titeca (2012), actual outcomes are likely to be shaped by power relations and political networks linking the state and its citizens as well as individual firms. Thus it is imperative that national strategies to tax the IS and curb tax evasion be contextualised and customised to the prevailing socio-economic and legal environment prevailing in a country. ...
... For example for the informal firms, IS taxation often leads to formalisation with divergent impacts. Formalisation might protect some firms from predatory behaviours of tax and government officials and open growth opportunities but for others such a move might not be beneficial but instead perpetuate the risks (Schomerus & Titeca, 2012;Titeca &Kimanuka, 2012:37). This reflects the varying dimensions and dynamics privileging inclusion and exclusion, influencing firms differently (Joshi et al., 2014). ...
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... For many South Sudanese it is not the first time to live in exile in Uganda; and some of them can fall back on previously established social ties. As entire Equatorian communities had to flee to Uganda during the war before independence (Schomerus & Titeca, 2012), there is a large group of South Sudanese that grew up in the Adjumani settlements or town. So although the 1995 Constitution does not allow refugees to obtain citizenship, there is a high degree of de facto integration, facilitated by their 'border identity' (Merkx, 2000). ...
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... Uganda is introduced as the third-largest refugee-hosting country in the world where almost 1.11 million South Sudanese refugees are taking shelter (Adaku et al., 2016). There are some problems in Uganda as well (Schomerus and Titeca, 2012). There are low educational facilities and sustainable energy production for cooking, housing, and lighting. ...
... There are low educational facilities and sustainable energy production for cooking, housing, and lighting. The living conditions of Uganda for the South Sudanese refugees remain below the international poverty line of US$1.9 per day (Schomerus and Titeca, 2012). Uganda is a country of low production and productivity with post-harvest losses. ...
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... Ugandans complained of unregulated taxation, harassment by military and security forces, and attacks on Ugandan traders (Ariko, 2007;Bwogi, 2007;Daily Monitor, 2007;Kiwawulo, 2008). Similar tensions and perceived inequalities have characterized trade across the DRC-Uganda border, where Ugandan traders feel more vulnerable than their Congolese counterparts (Schomerus and Titeca, 2012). ...
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African borderlands – such as those between South Sudan, Uganda and Congo – are often presented by analysts as places of agency and economic opportunity, in contrast to hardened, securitized borders elsewhere. We emphasize, however, that even such relatively porous international borders can nevertheless be the focus of significant unease for borderland communities. Crossing borders can enable safety for those fleeing conflict or trading prospects for businesspeople, but it can also engender anxieties around the unchecked spread of insecurity, disease and economic exploitation. Understanding this ambiguous construction of borders in the minds of their inhabitants requires us, we argue, to look beyond statist or globalizing discourses and to appreciate the moral economies of borderlands, and how they have been discursively and epistemologically negotiated over time. Narratives around witchcraft and the occult represent, we argue, a novel and revealing lens through which to do so and our study draws on years of fieldwork and archival research to underline how cartographies of witchcraft in this region are, and have long been, entangled with the construction of state political geographies, internal as well as international.
This article reflects on conversations with cross-border residents in the northwest region of Uganda about local ideas of the nature of political authority and questions of identity paperwork. It notes that there is very little that is really ‘national’ or ‘state’ about the identification paperwork and practices that have emerged on these borders from the 1990s onwards. Instead of a conversation about rights and reciprocal relationships with ‘their’ state/s, residents emphasize the significance of class systems, globalized capital, and power relations in how citizenship works in this region; dynamics that are not often centered in academic literature on claim-making and state-subject relationships. The article supports a wider move towards reframing studies of citizenship, the nation-state, diaspora, and ethnic community through local vocabularies and theory.
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This paper takes a localized conflict over a non-demarcated stretch of the Uganda–South Sudan boundary in 2014 as a starting point for examining the history of territorial state formation on either side of this border since its colonial creation in 1914. It argues that the conflict was an outcome of the long-term constitution of local government territories as patches of the state, making the international border simultaneously a boundary of the local state. Some scholars have seen the limited control of central governments over their borderlands and the intensification of local territorialities as signs of African state fragmentation and failure. But the article argues that this local territoriality should instead be seen as an outcome of ongoing state-formation processes in which state territory has been co-produced through local engagement and appropriation. The paper is thus of wider relevance beyond African or postcolonial history, firstly in contributing a spatial approach to studies of state formation which have sought to replace centre–periphery models with an emphasis on the centrality of the local state. Secondly it advances the broader field of borderlands studies by arguing that international boundaries have been shaped by processes of internal territorialisation as well as by the specific dynamics of cross-border relations and governance. Thirdly it advocates a historical and processual approach to understanding territory, arguing that the patchwork of these states has been fabricated and reworked over the past century, entangling multiple, changing forms and scales of territory in the ongoing constitution of state boundaries.
Informal economic activity is often a defining feature of the political economy of conflict and post-conflict cities. Despite its prevalence, however, its implications for peacebuilding remain largely under-theorised. This article draws on the extensive literature on informal economic activity more generally, with a focus on cities, to outline three contrasting perspectives on its significance for peacebuilding: first, that informal economies can support peacebuilding efforts by providing crucial livelihood support and access to essential goods and services in the absence of functioning formal markets; second, that they are a manifestation of resistance to unpopular top-down peacebuilding processes that fail to cohere with local understandings of economic justice; and third, that they can reproduce the conditions that led to conflict by re-establishing socio-economic hierarchies and systems of marginalisation. It argues that each of these perspectives has important implications for the theory and praxis of peacebuilding and raises conceptual challenges that remain unresolved. It then claims that any effort to incorporate urban informal economies into peacebuilding processes must prioritise democratic inclusion, grassroots organisation and formal employment creation if they are to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the urban poor.
In recent years, South African border towns such as Musina have grown exponentially in retail services and become subregional “hubs” for cross-border shopping. The existing literature on cross-border shopping has paid little attention to understanding the nature and extent of this phenomenon in less popular shopping destinations. This chapter discusses the spatial practices of shoppers, especially how different categories of shoppers experienced mobility across the Zimbabwe-South Africa border depending on whether they travelled by car, bus or other forms of public transport. It examines the modalities and practices associated with cross-border shopping by Zimbabweans in South Africa’s border town of Musina. The focus is on long-distance shoppers whose shopping trips require more organising, planning and financial resources while their journeys take anything from 3 to 8 h to get to the border post. These shoppers are worth studying because most of them come to Musina from larger towns and cities (than Musina) such as Bulawayo, Mutare and Harare the capital city. This brings a fascinating twist to common norms in the study of cross-border shopping, where scholars have paid attention to shopping by communities which live astride borders. Through their mobility patterns, Zimbabwean cross-border shoppers stimulate mobility of other actors whose aims are to control or benefit from their movements.
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The Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army's National Convention and Political Changes in the Southern Sudan during the 1990s The last few years have brought prospects for peace in the Southern Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army has represented the southerners at the negotiation table." Guerrilla Government" provides the historical background to this development. It analyzes the main events which brought the SPLM/A to its current supremacy and follows the process of internal reform which has produced a nascent state structure amidst a devastating civil war and continuous humanitarian crisis.
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The historical study of borderlands has been unduly restricted by an emphasis on the legal, political, and geographical aspects of borders and by a state-centered approach. Too often, the question has been how states have dealt with their borderlands rather than how borderlands have dealt with their states—culturally, economically, and politically. This article outlines a comparative approach to the social dynamics (struggles, adaptations, and cross-border alliances) in regions bisected by borders, and it argues that borderland studies provide an indispensable corrective to historical narratives that accept the territoriality to which all modern states lay claim.
Growth-pole strategy has become widely accepted as a basis for investment allocation despite the probability that regional disparities will be accentuated in less-developed economies. The case of the Sudan illustrates some of the problems that may arise. During the colonial period social and economic development was concentrated in the northern riverine districts, where conditions seemed most favorable for rapid growth. This policy was continued after independence in conscious adoption of a growth-pole strategy. The resulting discontent in underprivileged, peripheral regions created a spiral of violence that devastated parts of southern Sudan, necessitated growing expenditures for security, and encouraged further concentration of fresh investment in the more advanced core. A recent agreement that grants local autonomy to southern Sudan may mark a break from the pattern.
O ne of the root causes of conflict in Sudan is a sense of marginalization from the corridors of power and a share in national wealth. For generations Sudan's rulers have come from the far north of the country. This imbalance was encouraged by colonial rule; at the time of independence only a handful of parliamentarians did not hail from the Nile valley north of Khartoum. As soon as power becomes inaccessible or people lose control of the administration of resources, grievances begin to emerge. Holding these grievances in check requires an independent legislature, executive and judiciary at whatever level is most appropriate and practicable; in a country as large and diverse as Sudan the most appropriate or practicable level is unlikely to be the centre. If people are more closely involved with policy changes that affect their daily lives and most matter to them, such as education, healthcare and transparent revenue sharing leading to improved livelihoods, they will be more inclined to accept that some decisions need to be taken at the centre. In other words, effective decentralization strengthens the centre, and by encouraging participation, strengthens transparent and accountable governance. Decentralization guards against civil war by ensuring that everyone has access to power and acknowledging their right to decide for themselves how they wish to control their resources and manage their society. Decentralization is therefore an important part of the peace process. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Government of Sudan – and the Interim National Constitution it initiated – have helped to address the regional inequalities in Sudan by bringing the decision-making process closer to the people, both by giving states more devolved power and by recognizing southern Sudan as a separate administrative entity enjoying substantial autonomy within Sudan. These achievements are testament to the positive working relationships between the two negotiating parties and to the early agreement on wealth sharing during the Naivasha process.