Transporters reject Covid test fee, paralyze cargo operations

Drivers are each required to pay Sh6,000 for a coronavirus test

In Summary
  • The Kenya Transporters Association has opposed the charges saying transporters and drivers will not pay.
  • Kenyan truck drivers on Thursday stopped moving cargo into Uganda protesting harassment and discrimination by Ugandan authorities.
Trucks parked along the Bungoma-Busia highway as their drivers await their coronavirus test results.
EXPOSED: Trucks parked along the Bungoma-Busia highway as their drivers await their coronavirus test results.

Transporters in the country have vowed not to pay the require Covid-19 testing fee for long distance truck drivers, even as they move to paralyse operations between Kenya and Uganda.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Wednesday ordered all cross-border truck drivers be tested for Covid-19 at least 48 hours before leaving Mombasa or Nairobi.

"Truck drivers must produce a Covid-19 certificate before they are allowed to come in and go out of our border," CS Macharia said.

The test however comes with a cost of Sh6,000 per driver, before they are issued with a medical card to facilitate their journey.

The test is valid for 14 days . They are required to take fresh tests after every 14 days at another cost of Sh2,000 per test, per driver, if they are to be allowed to travel.

The Kenya Transporters Association(KTA) has however opposed the charges.

KTA chief executive Dennis Ombok said transporters and drivers will not pay the fee, noting that the government has mobilised resources for people to get tested for free.

Even the Mombasa County government is carrying out tests for free. Why would then the same county government through the public health department charge each driver Sh6,000 to get tested,” Ombok posed during a phone interview with the Star.

We are saying Sh6,000 is too much , we have not been consulted , we are not going to agree to pay that amount,” he added.

A transporter with around 100 trucks will be forced to part with Sh600,000 for his fleet to be in operation, and an extra Sh2,000 for every trip after the 14 days.

Ombok said transporters are listed as essential service providers hence should not be subjected to charges to get tested.

It doesn't make sense to us. We have said no, we are not going to pay the Sh6,000,” Ombok said.

KTA and the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association have also decried harassment and stigmatization of Kenyan drivers by Ugandans, where they have been labeled 'corona'.

Kenyan drivers are are not allowed to stop even to eat or relieve themselves .They have been forced to carry buckets in the cabin which they use as toilets. They are also forced to carry their own food, water and even sleep in the same cabin,” Ombok said.

On Tuesday, the truckers association called on Kenyan drivers to cease transporting goods into Uganda until the Kenyan and Ugandan government resolve existing challenges.

“Our drivers are being harassed so what I am saying is, stop going into Uganda. Let them come for their own cargo,” Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association, Secretary-General, Nicholas Mbugua said.

“We are going to stop going into Uganda until the two governments agree on how to address these issues,” he added.

As of last evening, movement of trucks from Kenya into Uganda had stopped, a move that now threatens to hurt exports and imports between the two countries, and Uganda's exports to international markets.

Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa.

South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

There are at least 600-1000 heavy commercial trucks along the Northern Corridor which links Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and DR Congo to the Port of Mombasa.

The border is closed. Kenyan drivers and clearing agents have downed tools until their concerns are addressed,” Ombok confirmed to the Star.

KTA also wants Ugandan authorities to stop mandatory tests on Kenyan drivers who have already been tested in Kenya.

“We don't want our drivers to be tested in a foreign land where results can even be doctored and all our drivers declared positive,” he said, “If they are to be tested, let them be tested by Kenyan authorities.”

Meanwhile, regional private sector lobby groups, led by the East African Business Council (EABC), have called on EAC partner states to agree and implement a coordinated regional approach on Covid-19 to facilitate free movement of cargo across the region.

EAC partner states should hold bilateral meetings to unlock barriers to free movement of cargo across the EAC region,” CEO Peter Mathuki said.

The lobby groups from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Zanzibar and South Sudan have said governments must ensure measures on Covid-19, “do not cause unnecessary cost and time burden to the free movement of goods and services in the EAC region.”

“We should not discriminate or put fear or stigma to essential service providers but treat them with respect and understanding,” they said in a joint communique.