Radio Dabanga (Hilversum)

7 January 2014

South Sudan: Major Losses for Darfuri Traders in South Sudan

Darfur — Darfuri traders complain about losses amounting to hundred thousands of dollars due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan and the subsequent attacks on their shops and stores, in particular in the towns of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal.

One of the affected Darfuri, owner of two companies, mainly operating in the South Sudanese capital Juba, with branches in Bor and Malakal, explained to Radio Dabanga that the pillaging and torching in Juba happened in 'three phases'. First, troops wearing military uniforms plundered the shops and the stores. These attacks were followed by citizens stealing the goods left by the troops. During 'the third phase' groups of people came and took what remained, such as furniture and storage racks. They also torched a large number of shops.

"All our shops in Juba, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu were burned, in addition to a number of stores," the company owner noted, explaining the most of the goods were imported from Sudan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and China. "We have lost thousands of dollars."

A Darfuri trader operating in Bor, the capital of Jonglei, told Radio Dabanga that about 2,000 shops in the town were burned. 400 of the shops were owned by Darfuris. He noted that that two of his boutiques and three stores were plundered, estimating his losses to be about 1 million South Sudanese pounds. The damage was that high because the shops were fully-stocked, being well prepared for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

In Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State, the clashes began on 24 December, a merchant, originally from El Fasher in North Darfur told Radio Dabanga. He owned a supermarket and a wholesale shop.

"Men in military uniforms driving Land Cruisers attacked the shops. Soldiers jumped from the vehicles, tying a chain to the vehicle and the other end to a shop door. After that they pulled out the doors of the shops easily by riding a few metres away. In most cases, they robbed the shop tenders of cash money and goods before putting the buildings on fire. This happened to most of the shops in Malakal."

"I lost everything I owned," the merchant from El Fasher said. "Because of Christmas, I had bought extra goods with a value of about 200,000 dollars to the commodities already stocked. I lost everything I owned. Now I cannot even afford to buy one meal."

The owner of a grocery in Malakal, originally from Kutum town in North Darfur, was robbed of about 200 tons of various goods. "The goods had been imported through the port of Mombasa in Kenya, a week before the robbery, and had arrived at the town of Malakal by river transport," he explained.

A trader from Kabkabiya town in North Darfur had, together with partners, set up shops in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. "Thank God," he told Radio Dabanga, "I was not present in Bentiu when the clashes began. My partners are okay. I say 'Thank God' because people were murdered. We have only lost our stores and our goods."

"I was in Juba," he explained, "checking the transport of our newly purchased goods for Christmas and New Year, coming from Kenya, Uganda and from wholesale shops in Juba. We bought commodities for about a million dollars in December alone. We paid a part in cash and a part on credit. It all disappeared, like ice before the sun."

In Juba, a trader from South Darfur's capital Nyala, and owner of a shop in 'area 107', located near the SPLA headquarters base of Bilpam, south of Juba, told Radio Dabanga that "after the fighting on the morning of 16 December in Juba, we closed the doors of our stores, and we fled, running for our lives. The sounds of shooting and shelling coming from inside the base were deafening. On Wednesday morning, when the situation in Juba had calmed down, we returned to our shops and stores and found them all pillaged. I did not own a large shop. The value of the goods was an estimated 60,000 South Sudanese pounds. That means about 15,000 dollars, which was all I had. Now I'm indebted to some wholesalers by about 25,000 pounds. I do not have anything anymore. Suddenly, the trader I was became a person dreaming of eating a meal a day, let alone two. Of course, no one eats three meals in Juba all these days."

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