BORDER SNARL-UP

Truckers stuck in Malaba for 14 hours over delayed Covid tests

KRA official cites insufficient reagents on the Ugandan side.

In Summary
  • Drivers who had arrived at the border town at 4am remained stuck in a traffic jam up to 6pm.

  • The clearance resumed Tuesday evening although KRA officials said it was still slow.

Long distance trucks in Malaba.
DEADLOCK: Long distance trucks in Malaba.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

Clearance of cargo trucks at the Malaba border resumed nearly 14 hours after the exercise was suspended early Tuesday.

The disruption was occasioned by a shortage of reagents used in Covid-19 testing at the Uganda side of the border, a Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official said.

It is mandatory for truck drivers who do not have test certificates to be screened at the border before being allowed to proceed with their journey to Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, Rwanda, or the eastern part of the DRC. They are tested at the customs yard on the Ugandan side of Malaba.

 
 

Malaba KRA station manager Paul Nyaga told the Star on Wednesday the exercise resumed on Tuesday evening although it was still slow. He cited insufficient test reagents.

Nyaga said the KRA Malaba office on the Kenyan side was liaising with Uganda's revenue department to provide reagents to hasten testing and clearance. He also blamed the stalemate on truck drivers' failure to get tested at their points of departure.

“Let's continue telling these truck drivers that they are supposed to be tested at their points of origin,” he told the Star on the phone.

“People should not leave their points of origin with no certificates. These guys are just coming with no certificates.”

On Tuesday, drivers who had arrived at the border town at 4am remained stuck in a traffic jam up to 6pm when testing resumed.

“Ugandans have no reagents and these people (truck drivers) went and filled the parking. So now there is no movement,” Nyaga said.

On April 30, the government issued a directive that truck drivers undergo mandatory coronavirus testing at their point of origin in a new strategy that was meant to contain the virus.

 
 

“As members of the East African Community, we believe that these discussions and arrangements we have within the EAC will facilitate the testing of drivers in an efficient way while at the same time not impeding the flow of trucks and cargo across the borders,” Health CAS Rashid Aman said while issuing the directive.

At the initial stages, similar snarl-ups were witnessed. They stretched for more than 50km on the Malaba-Bungoma highway and more than 15km on the Busia-Kisumu highway.

Health director general Patrick Amoth said on April 30 that the government was considering introducing an express lane in Busia and Malaba so test results are received before the drivers arrive at the border.

Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, being landlocked countries, receive most of their foreign supplies through the Port of Mombasa. These are mostly delivered through the Busia and Malaba one-stop border posts.

Nyaga urged truckers carrying food and medicines to visit the office of Teso North police boss Wilson Muraya so they are issued with letters to allow them to travel as the goods they transport are perishable.

Truck driver Felix Kamonzo appealed to his colleagues to get tested at their points of origin to ease cross-border clearance.