TRADE TROUBLE

Striking truck drivers reject Covid-19 testing fees reduction offer

They want the charges entirely scrapped before they can resume normal operations

In Summary
  • The truckers went on strike on Monday to protest the introduction of a Sh3,600 Covid-19 testing fee by Uganda claiming the levy is exploitative and discriminatory.
  • Malaba Clearing and Forwarding Agents chairman Kennedy Osiya said it is unfair for Uganda to impose the fee on truckers yet Ugandan long distance drivers test for Covid-19 while in Kenya freely.
A queue of long distance trucks at the Kocholya bridge on January 6, 2022.
LONG QUEUE: A queue of long distance trucks at the Kocholya bridge on January 6, 2022.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE
The truckers take time to prepare an early lunch in Amagoro on January 6.
LUNCH TIME: The truckers take time to prepare an early lunch in Amagoro on January 6.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE
The congestion that has been caused in Malaba town as a result of the strike.
CONGESTION: The congestion that has been caused in Malaba town as a result of the strike.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

Truck drivers who went on strike on Monday have rejected a proposal by Ugandan authorities to reduce fees they pay when they test for Covid-19. 

The truckers went on strike on Monday to protest the introduction of a Sh3,600 Covid-19 testing fee by Uganda, claiming the levy is exploitative and discriminatory.

Yesterday, the drivers told the Star that a meeting convened at the Malaba Customs Yard on Wednesday was informed by Ugandan officials who said the fee had been reduced to Sh3,000.

Those in attendance included representatives of Kenya Transporters Association, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, among others. 

The drivers, however, expressed unwillingness to pay the fee that facilitates their testing against coronavirus on the Ugandan side of the border.

The truckers want the fee entirely scrapped off before they can resume normal operations.

The strike has caused a long traffic snarl-up by cargo trucks stretching for about 40km along the Malaba-Bungoma highway.

Malaba Clearing and Forwarding Agents chairman Kennedy Osiya said it is unfair for Uganda to impose the fee on truckers yet Ugandan long distance drivers test for Covid-19 while in Kenya freely.

“It is unfair. Why charge us fees when Ugandan drivers who test for coronavirus in Kenya do not pay any money?” Osiya said.

Osiya also asked authorities across the border to explain why truckers pay the Sh3,600 to get tested in Malaba, while those crossing the border at the Busia One Stop Border Post get tested without paying.

He said the strike will remain in place until the fee is scrapped off.

Truckers who spoke to the Star faulted the Kenyan government for remaining silent on their concerns.

They asked the relevant ministries to intervene and solve the impasse that is threatening trade between Kenya and her neighbours.

Sila Wamalwa said paying Sh3,600 before getting tested in Uganda had become expensive for truck drivers.

Wamalawa said some companies do not pay the testing fees on behalf of their driver employees.

“There are firms which do not facilitate the testing exercise. Drivers have to spend their own money to get tested,” he said.

Attempts by the Star to cross into Uganda to get comment from Ugandan authorities over the truckers’ concerns did not materialise.

Ugandan security officers told the Star to get a written permit from Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry, after consultation with Uganda’s sister ministry allowing the media house to cross and work in Uganda.

The truckers told the press in Malaba town that the decision to slap them with the levy is against the spirit of the East African Community.

They said those with valid Covid-19 certificates have to undergo another coronavirus testing in Uganda before being allowed to proceed with the journey to their respective destinations.

The truckers are also protesting a decision by the Ugandan government to subject them to Covid-19 testing after every seven days.

This, they said is a ploy by the country to exploit the cargo transporters.

The strike came seven months after truckers protested against another fee that had been introduced by the Ugandan government to facilitate their testing against Covid-19.

In May last year, transporters in the country vowed not to pay the required Covid-19 testing fee for long distance truck drivers as they moved to paralyse operations between Kenya and Uganda.

The truckers’ Covid-19 test is valid for 14 days . They are required to take fresh tests after every 14 days.

On Tuesday, however, they said Uganda had revised the testing period to seven days.

 

(edited by Amol Awuor)