Unscreened Ugandans and other foreign nationals are sneaking into the country illegally on River Lwakhakha, which borders Kenya in Namisindwa District, Daily Monitor has established.
The people, mainly from Kenya, are reportedly swimming across the river at night into the country following the closure of borders by President Museveni as part of the measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Daily Monitor also learnt that there is a makeshift boat, which people are using to sail across the river.
The interviewed locals said people decided to take to the water after being denied permission by the area chairpersons to cross over using wooden bridges erected on various porous border points in the district.
According to the district officials, Namisindwa District has a total of about 32 porous borders, many of them not manned by security personnel.
Many of the porous points are found in the sub-counties of Namboko, Namitsa, and Lwakhakha Town Council, Bukiabi, Bimbo, Bukokho and Bupoto.
In Namboko Sub-county, there is also a wooden bridge, which locals refer to in Kiswahili as “Ya Mungu” meaning God’s bridge, which is also being used to cross into the country. It is not manned either.
“This is a divine bridge, which is supposed to be used by our people, who are our relatives from Kenya without interruption or else we anger the gods,” one of the locals said.
Mr Joseph Kundu, a resident of Busiuma Village in Namboko Sub-County, neighbouring Bungoma county in Kenya, said most people cross over at night.
“They are crossing especially at night. We ask the security to deploy heavily to stop this,” Mr Kundu said.
Many of the people who live at the border points have inter-married with Kenyans and they eke out their livelihood from cross border business.
The Namisindwa and Manafwa district security team has carried out numerous operations on River Lwakhakha and in Bunyinza Sub-county, Manafwa District but their effort is yet to yield results.
The Namisindwa Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Moses Kigai Wamoto, said he has directed security personnel to shoot anyone found crossing River Lwakhakha at night into the country.
“Anybody who passes through Namisindwa water at night must be properly dealt with on the spot. People should not risk to cross that water because they will be killed,” he said, adding that it is not a joke.
The RDC Manafwa District, Mr Ahamada Washaki, said they have found out that residents on both sides have continued to cross to either side using the river, something he said, is too risky.
“Some citizens of Uganda who are still in Kenya are using the illegal points to come back to Uganda during this lockdown without going through the medical checkups. This is a big threat to the country,” Mr Washaki said.
Mr Washaki said he has directed the police and other security agencies to deploy heavily on the river and porous border points.
“It’s a big threat in that they are going to import the virus in Uganda and that will affect the economy the more,” he said, adding that they launched an operation to stop the illegal entry in the country.
The UPDF 3rd Division Rear, Lt. Jude Wandera, said thay got the reports and have since ordered deployment in the affected areas.
“We are going to add more army in all porous borders to contain the situation,” Lt Wandera said.
He, however, said there is need for joint effort to fight Covid- 19, saying the army can’t be everywhere.
“We can’t be everywhere but we need vigilance of all people to report anyone crossing the border,” Mr Wandera said.
However, the Namisindwa District Woman MP, Grace Namukhula Watuwa, blamed the massive crossing in the water on weak security in the area.
“Reports coming in indicate that security is weak and Kenyans are coming in through the porous border,” Ms Namukhula.
This article was originally published in Daily Monitor.