by Kevin Davids
Several Kenya and Uganda-bound trucks and fuel tankers are stuck at the Busia-Kenya border after foreigners, especially Ugandan drivers, were stopped from crossing into Kenya. Most of Uganda’s fuel is transported through Kenya; so the closure of the border over coronavirus threatens to hurt exports and fuel supplies.
Uganda is a landlocked country and depends on Kenya to bring in her imports.
The blocking of trucks started on Monday morning. Mr Sulaiman Sadique, a driver of a fuel tanker, said he had spent more than 12 hours at the border yet he was supposed to get fuel from Eldoret and deliver it to Kampala.
“They are giving us hard conditions to release our fuel tankers to Kenyan drivers which is impossible,” he said. Mr Sulaiman Kavuma, a truck driver who was taking milk to Kenya, on Tuesday said he arrived at the border on Monday. “I arrived here on Monday but up to now we have been denied entry into Kenya,” he said, adding that instead, Kenya police told him to hand over his truck to a Kenyan driver to deliver the milk to Eldoret.
Empty fuel tankers heading to Kenya to pick fuel, plus trucks carrying Uganda’s exports, especially sugarcanes, are among those stuck at the border.
By Tuesday evening, the queue of trucks had stretched to more than three kilometres.
Kenya and Uganda have since closed their borders to foreign travellers following directives from presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Museveni, respectively.
Mr Michael John Amodoi, a clearing agent on the Uganda side, said whereas Uganda had allowed Kenyan drivers to enter their country, it was different on their side.
“Here, we have allowed drivers holding Kenyan national Identity cards to freely drive into Uganda, but in Kenya, it’s different,” he said.
Mr Amodoi said Kenyan clearing agents had refused to hand over papers exiting fuel tankers and trucks to Uganda.
“The Kenyans are insisting that unless they are allowed to cross into Uganda and clear their trucks and fuel tankers, they will not release any papers to Ugandan agents,” he said. Mr Mophat Odiambo, a Kenyan clearing agent, said they will only allow trucks from Kenya if they are allowed to cross the border and clear on the Ugandan side.
“Under the East African Community (EAC), we are allowed to work on either side of the border,” Mr Odiambo said. On the Kenyan side, trucks and fuel tankers were equally held up after Kenyan clearing agents held on to their exit documents.
Mr Carlos Wanyama, a clearing agent on the Ugandan side, thinks allowing the Kenyans to cross over and clear trucks and fuel tankers on the Ugandan side will flaunt the presidential directive.
Mr Simon Esunget, a customs supervisor at the Busia border, told border agencies that after a lengthy meeting with Kenyan authorities they had allowed Kenyan clearing agents to cross the border and clear trucks on the Ugandan side. “We have adjusted on the restrictions and allowed Kenyan and Ugandan agents to clear on both sides of the border,” Mr Esunget said.
He, however, added that the clearing agents will have reflectors for identification and hoped this will allow trucks bringing supplies into Uganda to cross.