Ugandan armed forces have confirmed an encounter with South Sudanese counterparts, leading to the death of several soldiers.
“A clash between UPDF and SSDPF occured along our border in Ngomoromo,” said Uganda Defence spokesperson Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso on Thursday night.
“Both diplomatic and military engagements are yielding positive results to restore normalcy along our common borders,” she added.
South Sudan army publicist, Major General, Lul Ruai Koang, said in a statement that UPDF at around 1:00PM crossed to Pogee in Magwi County before opening fire at South Sudanese soldiers, killing two of them.
The Ugandan army is yet to provide details of the shootings but Byekwaso said “UPDF will continue to persue for safety alongside our borders to enable trade and peaceful coexistence in the spirit of PanAfricanism.”
Relations between Uganda and South Sudan have been strong for years.
In 2013, Uganda used their air capabilities, special forces, infantry and tanks against the rebels in the battles along the road from Juba to Bor to fend off a rebel movement seeking to oust President Salva Kiir.
Doing so, the Ugandan army helped the South Sudanese military deter what was seen as a major threat mounting on the capital.
On its part, South Sudan serves as a major destination of Ugandan exports.
The volume of trade between Uganda and South Sudan stood at more than $400m in the financial year of 2019/20.
Uganda and South Sudan share a long border, traversing the home areas of several ethnic groups.
Violence along the Uganda–South Sudan border adds to the friction between Juba and Kampala. Conflicts, complicated by an undemarcated boundary, has led to disputes in the borderland areas of Yumbe, Moyo, Adjumani and Lamwo.
In September 2014, one of the most serious clashes in recent history occurred over the border between Moyo and Kajo Kejji, triggered by the Ugandan national census. Local officials canvassed the disputed territory, and this enraged the South Sudanese.
At least 10 people were killed, several thousand were displaced, and property was looted and destroyed.
In August 2015, fighting broke out further east, in areas south of Magwi, when UPDF detachments made border incursions to pursue militants.
Increased lawlessness has also exacerbated larger border conflicts.
Uganda depends on a border that blocks rebels while allowing trade to flow, and border communities benefiting from regional stability and economic development are the best insurance.
And while demarcating borders is an essential investment in peaceful interaction, this is not currently a political priority.