Witness Account of South Sudan Bus Ambush

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In short
Heshmid Godfrey Isaac says the attackers identified themselves as enemies of Dinka people fighting to take over government of South Sudan. They accused the Dinka and Ugandans of supporting the government of Juba and told people never to travel on Monday, Wednesday and Friday along Juba highway.

Victims of the Monday morning bus ambush in South Sudan have narrated their ordeal of harassment and mistreatment.

Heshmid Godfrey Isaac, a resident of Ngora district says the attackers mounted an ambush at a junction in Jabelen, about 120 Kilometers from Juba.   He says the first bus that entered the ambush was a Gateway bus registration number UAM 216V. 

The attack also involved a Friendship bus registration UAU 240F and ECO Bus registration number SSB 154A which was burnt to ashes. 

Speaking in Gulu shortly after arriving at 8:10pm aboard a Gateway Bus registration number UAJ 2O2 Z, Heshmid says the attackers ordered all passengers out of the bus to carry goods they looted from the buses. He says no one was beaten, injured or killed. 

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Isaac says the attackers identified themselves as enemies of Dinka people fighting to take over government of South Sudan. They accused the Dinka and Ugandans of supporting the government of Juba and told people never to travel on Monday, Wednesday and Friday along Juba highway.

The gunmen then made passengers to carry loots for more than a Kilometer in to a nearby valley about three metres deep. The goods were piled there before releasing the passengers. They shot into the fuel tank of the Gateway bus twice in an attempt to burn it off.

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The attackers interrogated the drivers of the Eco bus for transporting Dinka people.

"When they introduced themselves as Ugandans, they were told you are the people transporting the Dinka. When you don't stop we shall finish you and the Ugandans", Isaac said quoting a fighter.

The attackers searched all passengers for money and mobile phones. "A Dinka lady was humiliated and left after she surrendered unspecified amount of US dollars and Uganda shillings".

The attackers, armed rocket propelled grenade and other heavy weapons, returned passports and some documents before releasing the passengers to return to the main road. 

According to Isaac, the attackers took everything they owned. Luckily, SPLA soldiers arrived in time to evacuate the passengers on light vehicles and the Friendship and Gateway Bus.

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Patrick Jimmy Okema, Aswa River Police Spokesperson says Takuba Yusuf; the driver of the ECO Bus was shot in the thigh as he attempted to flee from the attackers.  He has been hospitalized in Juba Hospital. 

The attack comes barely a month after another ECO bus was attacked in Loa, a locality near Pageri in Magwi County in which three people died. There have been several attacks on buses in South Sudan since fresh fighting broke out in July between factions loyal to former vice president Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir.

 

About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.