BORDER COVID-19 FIGHT

Kenyan truck drivers block exit to Uganda

Demand release of driver held there after allegedly testing positive for coronavirus

In Summary

• Say Ugandan government should suspend cargo haulage from Kenya until the pandemic is contained if they are afraid of Kenyans. 

• They raise concerns over Ugandan officials allegedly not changing gloves while taking samples for testing. 

A queue of long distance trucks hauling cargo into Uganda on the Bungoma-Malaba highway awaiting clearance.
TOUGH TIMES: A queue of long distance trucks hauling cargo into Uganda on the Bungoma-Malaba highway awaiting clearance.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

@eosere

Operations at the Malaba One-Stop Border Post have been suspended after truck drivers blocked Kenya’s exit to Uganda.

The suspension comes two weeks after Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association Secretary-General Nicholas Mbugua called on Kenyan drivers to stop going into Uganda.

 

The cargo transporters are protesting harassment and discrimination by Ugandan authorities.

On Thursday, the truckers through their Malaba chairman Kenneth Okeyo, demanded that a Kenyan truck driver allegedly detained in Uganda be released and allowed to return to seek treatment for Covid-19.

The driver, Okeyo said, is being held by Malaba Uganda Port Health officials. He said their colleague has been in custody for 48 hours, endangering his life.  

The truckers are also protesting the delayed release of coronavirus test results in Malaba, Uganda. They allege there are drivers whose samples were taken on May 16 but have not received their results. They say the affected truckers are anxiously waiting for the results to know their coronavirus status so that they can resume their duties.

They also allege that Ugandan security personnel remove their truck number plates whenever they alight from their vehicles to buy food or answer a call of nature.

They want President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and engage his Uganda counterpart Yoweri Museveni to rein in the officers.

“If a driver leaves Malaba going to Congo, he is not allowed to alight until he crosses in DR Congo,” Okeyo told the Star.

Okeyo also took issue with the way authorities in Uganda carry out Covid-19 tests saying it can aid the spread of the virus.

 

“They don’t change their gloves and they can infect other people as they move about their business,” he said.

He said Ugandan health personnel should take it upon themselves to follow the laid down health rules of testing for the virus without endangering people who are possibly negative.

REMEDIES

The protesting truckers suggested that as a way of reducing the ‘mistreatment’ in Uganda, all cargo trucks destined for Juba and other parts of South Sudan be diverted to use the Kitale-Lodwar route.

“If Uganda is not ready to accommodate us, then they should divert the route so that we use the Kitale Road to South Sudan,” Okeyo said.

He also said if Ugandans fear that Kenyans are out to infect them with the coronavirus, then the Ugandan government should suspend cargo haulage from Kenya until the pandemic is contained.

On May 6, the truckers’ secretary general Mbugua said Kenyan truck drivers are denied access to basic needs such as food, water and accommodation once they are in Uganda, making it difficult to transit and deliver cargo.

He said Kenyan drivers are perceived to be infected even after testing negative and being allowed to move.

“Our drivers are being harassed so what I am saying is, stop going into Uganda. Let them come for their own cargo,” Mbugua said on Thursday.

“Who said Ugandans cannot have the virus? We are going to stop going into Uganda until the two governments agree on how to address these issues,” he added.

There are between 600 to 1,000 heavy commercial trucks along the Northern Corridor which links Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and DR Congo to the Port of Mombasa.

If truck drivers cease operations, it will hurt imports and exports in and out of the hinterland.

Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa while South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent whereas DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

Edited by R.Wamochie