• Already, senators from the Coast have protested the government's move.
• Led by Mombasa’s Mohamed Faki, the senators bashed Transport CS James Macharia for reneging on last year’s agreement.
The Okoa Mombasa Coalition has protested the latest government directive for businesses to haul cargo destined for other parts of the country exclusively via the SGR.
The coalition, which includes Muslims for Human Rights, Kenya Transporters Association and other stakeholders, said the directive is a betrayal by the government.
The Transport ministry recently issued a circular to all businesses to haul their cargo to other parts of the country and neighbouring countries using the SGR from June 1.
Khelef Khalifa, the coalition’s co-founder and Muhuri chair, and KTA chief Dennis Ombok, on Thursday said the move is a ploy by senior government officials to profiteer at the expense of the economy of the Coast.
“The SGR has always been driven by political reasons and not economic reasons. It was rushed ahead of the 2017 general elections to get votes,” Khalifa said.
The lobbies spoke at a press conference at the Muhuri Clinic in Mombasa on Thursday.
Ombok said the directive is a slap on the face of transporters who, only six months ago, had an agreement with the government that importers would be allowed to choose own means of transporting their cargo.
“We don’t need the SGR to monopolise things. Let there be a free market,” Ombok said.
Already, senators from the Coast have protested the government's move.
Led by Mombasa’s Mohamed Faki, the senators bashed Transport CS James Macharia for reneging on last year’s agreement.
Faki accused Macharia of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to strangle the Coast region’s economy, which is already on its death bed.
The government wants all cargo destined for the hinterland and neighbouring countries to be cleared at the Naivasha dry port, a move that the Ugandan government has also objected.
The Ugandan government wants their importers to be allowed to choose how to ferry their goods.
A communique from Uganda’s Ministry of Works, seen by the Star, indicates it is unwilling to use the Naivasha dry port and would prefer continuing to pick their cargo from Mombasa.
Macharia wants Naivasha to be the transhipment area.
“Instead of driving all the way to Mombasa, another 600km, they will be picking cargo from Naivasha,” Macharia told the Star on phone.
However, Uganda’s Minister of Works and Transport Edward Katumba-Wamala said the use of the Naivasha ICD for transit cargo would not reduce traffic as truck drivers will still be required to pick containers from Naivasha to their destination.
“Therefore, it is our considered opinion that the use of Naivasha ICD which is part of our long-term regional infrastructure development should remain optional,” Katumba says in a letter to Macharia.
In Mombasa, Khalifa insisted the SGR deal is illegal adding that that is why the government refused to publish the contract signed with the Chinese for scrutiny.
“We have written to various agencies to allow us to scrutinise the signed deal with the government and China but they have all refused, saying it is classified,” Khalifa said.
“Taxpayers’ money has been used to construct the SGR and once taxpayers’ money has been used it no longer is a secret and must be made public.”
Ombok said at least 15,000 truckers will lose their jobs should the government insist on knocking out the competition.
He said there are at least 15,000 trucks in Kenya - each having an average of about Sh10 million - invested in it. “No economy in the world can compete against its own people. Only in Kenya. No economy in the world can decide to destroy its road transport industry. Only in Kenya,” Ombok said.
Last Saturday, the Okoa Mombasa Coalition announced a return of the Black Monday weekly protests.
The coalition said the government has refused to play ball and should prepare for what is coming.
(edited by o. owino)