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EAST AFRICA: Kenya, Uganda scramble to clear Malaba border crisis.

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Despite an agreement arrived at on Wednesday by government officials from Kenya and Uganda on the process of Covid-19 testing for truckers at the common border, an association for Kenyan truck drivers on Thursday advised its members to suspend services until both governments address stigma and harassment.

Secretary-general of the Kenyan truckers union Nicholas Mbugua said on Thursday: “There is no safety agreement between Kenya and Uganda and yet drivers are being coerced by police officers to cross over to Uganda. We demand to be guaranteed the safety of our drivers in Uganda.”

Speaking at the union’s offices in Mlolongo, Mr Mbugua said the drivers were tired of ‘’unbearable humiliation drivers were subjected to in Uganda”.

The truckers had blocked the Kenyan side of the border for three days from Monday, stretching almost 50 kilometres. On Tuesday, meetings between senior government officials from both countries failed to reach an agreement.

Mercy Ireri, the chief operations officer at the Kenya Transport Authority, said: “I can confirm people are moving. Trucks are also moving,” she told The EastAfrican on Wednesday.

“Previously the drivers had demanded that they be addressed by both President Kaguta Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta, but we managed to allay their fears,” she said.

“There was a meeting yesterday [Tuesday] where we discussed with the truck drivers their grievances. One of the big issues was the Covid-19 testing. There is a full agreement to accept each other’s testing,” said Solomon Kitungu, the principal secretary in Kenya’s ministry of Transport. “Security issues are being discussed by each partner state as we speak, and we expect a solution as we move along.”

Mr Kitungu and his East African Community counterpart Kevit Desai led a delegation of Kenyan officials to the meeting with the Uganda delegation on Tuesday.

The Ugandan side was led by James Malinzi from the Uganda Revenue Authority in charge of Eastern Region, head of health services at Malaba border point Dennis Turyagenda and Maj Kenneth Habomugisha.

“We also met with Kenya’s ambassador to Uganda, Kiema Kilonzo, among other officials, and we have now sorted out the issue,” said Mr Kitungu on Wednesday.

“We also discovered that some of the Kenyan drivers insisted on driving to Malaba without Covid-19 certificates and expected to be tested at the Malaba border before crossing over, a decision that led to the long queue at the border,” he added.

He said the directive from Kenya’s Transport Minister James Macharia requiring that truck drivers be tested 48 hours before their travel should be adhered to.
Two weeks ago, a similar meeting was held between Kenya and Tanzania at the Namanga border point.

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