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Traffic jam eases after police eject protesting truckers

Tuesday May 26 2020
JAM

Trucks queue at Koteko on the Bungoma-Malaba Road, awaiting clearance to enter Uganda. Truckers must undergo Covid-19 testing to prevent the spread of the pandemic. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA| NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BRIAN OJAMAA

A traffic snarl-up that stretched for more than 50 kilometres from the Kenya-Uganda border at Malaba started easing Tuesday.

This was after police forcibly removed truckers who had downed their tools citing harassment in Uganda. Speaking during a Covid-19 briefing yesterday, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the few who had caused the gridlock had been dealt with.

As a result, government officials reiterated their call to have truckers from Kenya obtain a Covid-19 clearance certificate 48 hours before departure to avoid “painful” tests at the Kenya/ Ugandan border.

East African Community Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed said Kenyan truckers had complained that they were being subjected to painful tests at the Malaba border.

PAINFUL TESTS

“We urge our truckers to do the tests in Kenya. Once you have the certificate, you do not have to be subjected to those painful tests,” he said.

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He said Kenya’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Mr Kiema Kilonzo, was handling the issue on the Ugandan side.

Mr Mohamed said the Kenyan drivers had complained about lack of proper sanitation facilities: “You do not expect first-class facilities, but they are not as bad as people have described,” he said.
Mr Macharia said the tussle was not because of testing protocols, but errant drivers out to cause trouble: “We have been using the same testing protocols with Uganda. But the traffic jam was caused by some few elements who came to incite other truck drivers,” he said.

Malaba is the entry point to the Great Lakes region, which accounts for 30 per cent of all cargo coming through the port of Mombasa.

“With all these investments, which help in our development, we cannot have a few individuals causing trouble,” he cautioned.

HARASSMENT

The jam stretched from Malaba to Kanduyi, with trucks parked on both sides of the road.

The drivers from the Kenyan side went on a go-slow to protesting against harassment by Ugandan soldiers. They parked the trucks transporting petroleum at the border and deflated the tyres.

Busia County Commissioner Joseph Kanjiri Mureithi on Tuesday said the government would arrest and charge any driver found inciting others.

“We have heard this issue of truck drivers blocking the road for the past week, which has created panic among local residents, who fear that it could lead to the spread of Covid-19,” he said, adding that the government’s appeal to the truck drivers to remove their vehicles had failed.

He stated that the drivers’ demands were very unrealistic, as they wanted President Uhuru Kenyatta and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to appear in person and address their plight.
He said they would ensure the road remains open and that business between Kenya and Uganda continues smoothly.

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