alexa In Malaba, the border provides escape route - Daily Nation

In Malaba, the border provides escape route

Friday October 24 2014

Trucks waiting for clearance at Malaba. FILE PHOTO

Trucks waiting for clearance at Malaba. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Malaba is an old town that sprouted during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway in the 1900s.

The origin of the name Malaba, home to the Teso, remains a mystery, although there has been speculation that a renowned witchdoctor by the same name once lived in the area.

That Mombasa rakes in huge sums from clearance of goods on transit to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan is no secret.

But what is unknown to many Kenyans is that a bulk of these goods pass through Malaba.

Money-changing is a big business on both sides of the border, as well clearing and forwarding.

Malaba is a business town with many tycoons who own shops, trucks, matatus, supermarkets and rental houses.

The supermarket business is a quick money maker. Goods bought from supermarkets are sold across the border in Uganda for twice or three times the price.

Some of the biggest supermarkets in Malaba include Frarim, Yassin, Glory and Tessia.

Majority of the small-scale traders cannot afford the huge tax slapped on the goods by the Kenya and Uganda revenue authorities.

They, therefore, resort to ‘magendo’ or illegal border trade.

It is common to see Kenyan and Ugandan police or customs officers in hot pursuit of an old woman carrying wheat flour, sugar or toothpaste.

Interestingly, the woman outruns her younger, trained male pursuers.

The daring ones swim with the goods across the Malaba River that forms the boundary of Kenya and Uganda.


Kenyans usually cross to Uganda to buy agricultural produce such bananas, mangoes, pineapples, cassava, groundnuts, sesame, maize and sorghum.

Prices for these commodities are relatively cheaper than in Kenya. Some of these items are sold as far as Mombasa.

Trucks carrying goods to Uganda and other countries are a regular feature. At times, the trailers’ queue stretches to Kimaeti that is about 25kms away.

The blame is usually laid on Ugandan customs officials by Kenyan clearing agents who accuse them of laziness.

The agents claim queues are longer especially on the days when top English Premier League clubs are playing.

Ugandan officials, they claim, abandon their jobs to watch the matches.

Apart from the railway, the other significant means of transport are motorcycles and bicycles.

Clubs such as Winkers, Small World, Blues, Soflo, Sipers, Midway, Tumaini and Keringe will keep you fed and entertained.

As you await for clearance at Malaba, enjoy a sumptuous serving of molokonyi that can be washed down with beer or traditional brew.

Molokonyi is a cow’s leg delicacy that can either be served roast or boil.

Tell us the interesting things about your town. Send your stories to [email protected]