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Charcoal traders at Busia buffer zone defy govt order to leave

Tuesday December 10 2019

Trucks parked at one of the charcoal depots

Trucks are parked at one of the charcoal depots at the Busia buffer zone along the Kenya-Uganda border on December 9, 2019. PHOTO | GAITANO PESSA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GAITANO PESSA
By GAITANO PESSA
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A group of charcoal traders operating at Busia buffer zone has vowed to stay put in defiance of a directive to vacate that was issued by the government.

Although the number of trucks at the strip has reduced compared to mid this year, business is still booming, with thousands of bags loaded and offloaded every day.

The charcoal is ferried from neighbouring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

SECURITY THREAT

Kenyan authorities have issued at least two directives for the traders to leave, citing their presence as a security threat considering that the Sh1.2 billion One Stop Border Post (OSBP) is just 100 metres away.

The order was first issued by Busia Deputy County Commissioner Fredrick Ayieko in August 2018.

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County Commissioner Jacob Narengo issued another mid this year.

CONDITION

But the traders on Monday told the Nation that they will move if the government allocates them another space.

Peter Onyango, who owns two depots at the strip, said, "This trade has employed a number of youth who formerly engaged in criminal activities. Does the government want them to return to crime?”

Mr Onyango said the government should provide the youths with jobs before doing away with the charcoal business.

He accused the provincial administration of ordering them to leave without consulting them.

“This place was previously a bush. We cleared it and set up shop so it’s no longer a security threat.  We get amused when officials say we are a security threat yet our only aim is to earn a living legally."

This is the third time the traders have resisted a directive to leave the strip. They also run food kiosks and sell cereals, fruit including pineapples, oranges and watermelons.

REVENUE LOSS

With no regulations, operations at the border has denied both the county and national government revenue as traders sneak in sacks of charcoal using trucks and bicycles, taking advantage of the porous border. 

Tree logging was banned in Kenya so charcoal prices increased sharply.