Transporters will continue to paralyse cargo operations along the Kenya-Uganda border unless officials of the two East African states address their plight amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) Chief Executive Officer Dennis Ombok has vowed to continue with the border protests against the alleged high handedness on the Ugandan side of the border.
Addressing a press conference in Mombasa Ombok said truckers who were on the Ugandan side of the border were recently teargased by Ugandan security forces on grounds that they were disobeying social distancing directives and other health protocols.
He also protested against inordinate delays in releasing of covid-19 results leading to long queues and trade disruptions at the border crossing points.
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He said many of the drivers who took the covid-19 tests several days ago are not aware of the outcome of those tests to date despite continued promises that the results would be known within 48 hours.
Ombok said truck drivers were now being discriminated and stigmatized along the northern transport corridor with claims that they become the real threat to efforts to combat the covid-19 pandemic.
The KTA official said it appears authorities with the connivance of the coronavirus pandemic were trying to sabotage cross border trade and drive transporters out of business.
“We want the government to send a high level delegation just as they did with Tanzania to resolve our covid-19 problems with Ugandans” he said.
The transporters are also asking the harmonization of covid-19 screening in the East African region saying they were being subjected to multiple tests.
Ombok also protested the decision by the Transport Ministry that all cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan will be transported via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) for clearance at the Naivasha inland container depot beginning June 1.
He said the directive will render thousands of truckers who earn their livelihood through the transport business destitute.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Friday announced that it will be mandatory for all cargo imported through the port of Mombasa to be hauled through SGR to facilitate the containment of covid-19.
The Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association (KLDTDA) chairman Roman Waema said the multiple covid-19 tests aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus across the region were punitive.
“Long distance truck drivers are being humiliated and subjected to a lot of difficulties along the northern corridor as they deliver cargo” he said.
Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid and Muslims for Human Right (Muhuri) chairman Khelef Khalifa who joined the transporters in their media briefing said it was wrong to harass truckers in the name of fighting the pandemic.
Khalid said transporters and civil society organizations will resume their weekly demonstrations in Mombasa if the government fails to rescind the directive to haul cargo through the SGR.