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CS steps in to end Kenya-Tanzania stand-off at Namanga border

Friday June 19 2020
truck

A goods truck crosses into Tanzania from Kenya at the Namanga border. FILE PHOTO | NMG

By STANLEY NGOTHO

The Cabinet secretary for the East African Community yesterday intervened to end the Namanga border stand-off that had paralysed cross-border trade.

Operations at the Namanga One Stop Border Point on the Kenya-Tanzania line have been paralysed for the past two weeks as the two countries disagreed on how to test truck drivers

Tanzanian authorities have reconsidered an earlier decision rejecting the testing of the country’s truckers for Covid-19 at the Namanga crossing.

Tanzania had been protesting in line with the memorandum of understanding signed by representatives of the two countries.

Tanzanian drivers maintained they could not be retested at Namanga while Kenyan health officials stood their ground and refused to accept clearance certificates from the neighbouring country.

Health officials claimed Tanzanians were getting Covid-19 certificates from dispensaries and chemists, breaching the MoU that required testing to be done at facilities recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO)

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Tanzanians, on the other hand, protested against Kenya’s move and blocked cargo vehicles from entering without giving the truckers a chance to be tested by their health officials.

However, on Wednesday, East African Community and Regional Development CS Adan Mohamed said the two trade partners had reached an agreement, saying the decision by Tanzanian authorities to allow truckers to be tested is a major economic breakthrough.

The truce is said to be the culmination of President Kenyatta’s talks with his Tanzanian counterpart John Pombe Magufuli.

“The two-week stand-off has cost the two trade partners greatly. We have now agreed on protocols and testing modalities for seamless movement of goods within the East Africa Community,” Mr Mohamed said.

The pandemic, he said, requires regular dialogue between member states to avert a possible economic and bilateral crisis.

“EAC member states have a duty to honour bilateral trade agreements. Dialogue is an important tool to iron out any stand-off that can degenerate into a diplomatic row that hurts the economy.”

He also said the agreement was reached by President Kenyatta and President Magufuli.

Mr Mohamed said Kenya had agreed to hasten the testing of drivers at the border crossing and process the results within 24 hours to safeguard farm produce from rotting.

“Tanzanian truckers have cited delayed results and missing samples as a major challenge. The Kenyan government had installed a 500-600 sample daily capacity mobile unit at the border entry. The laboratory has the capacity to release results within five hours,” he said.

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