More than 100 trucks are stuck at the Mpondwe border in Kasese district following targeted attacks on drivers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by suspected militiamen. Drivers, who spoke to the URN on Tuesday, said small groups of young men armed with rudimentary weapons have made cut-off points about 44 KM from the Lhubiriha border along the Mpondwe-Beni route.
They reportedly attack drivers, loot goods, and set vehicles ablaze. On Monday, the militia allegedly intercepted a Ugandan truck and set it on fire, triggering panic among truckers across both ends of the route. On Tuesday, drivers parked their vehicles, demanding answers from DRC authorities.
Kicumbi Laston, a trucker from Zambia, told URN that they loaded goods from South Africa destined for Congo through Mpondwe but were told by clearing agents upon arrival at the border that they could not proceed with their journey because of insecurity in Eastern DRC. He says 15 Zambian drivers have spent close to a week at Mpondwe.
Laston revealed that they have run out of food and money amid the uncertainty of when they will enter the DRC. He also noted that it’s difficult to change the route at this moment.
His counterpart, George Kanungo, says they have to pay about 20,000 schillings every night as parking fees for the trucks, describing the amount as unfair given the poor facilities at the yard. Kanungo, who was to enter DRC for the first time, says he has run out of food and is finding it difficult to adapt to the local Ugandan dishes.
Bigirwa Katerega, a Ugandan trucker, says that he is scared of entering the DRC after getting reports that a number of drivers have been killed as they attempted to cross into Uganda. He says that they got information on Tuesday that there were attacks in Burongo, where a number of houses were burnt down.
Benon Masereke, a driver who survived an attack on Monday, said a group of armed men intercepted his vehicle a couple of kilometers from the Mpondwe border. Though he managed to escape, the attackers torched the truck.
Henry Bwambale, the chairperson of the business community in Mpondwe, says business in the area continues to deteriorate due to the unending insurgencies in the DRC. He says the drivers have now resolved not to drive into Congo until they get assurance from DRC authorities regarding their safety.
Bwambale asks both governments to work jointly and escort the trucks.
Our reporter was unable to get a comment from security heads in Kasese by the time of filing this story.