Kenya and Uganda locked horns over the issue of truck driver clearance following the closure of the Kenya Uganda border on Sunday, March 22 through an order by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
As per the decree, only cargo transport would be allowed to enter or leave the country once the directive came into force.
According to a report from the Parliament of Uganda on Tuesday, March 31, the two countries were in a standoff on how to handle the truck drivers plying between the countries.
The bone of contention was the delay in clearing the trucks with Uganda providing that Kenya is playing delay tactics and taking too long with the process thus causing congestion.
Speaking to the Standard on Tuesday, March 31, Mercy Ireri of Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) confirmed that there were delays at the border points that caused a significant layover for the truckers.
“We have only three port health officers at the Malaba border specifically. Clearance of trucks ends at 1400hrs, meaning we have five dead hours between when the clearance stops and when the curfew starts. Only 23 trucks are cleared at the border into Kenya in an hour, that is a very low number," Ireri stated.
She further provided that as of Tuesday morning, there was a long stretch of about 1,040 trucks all awaiting clearance before they could proceed.
Uganda Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija made a similar observation but blamed the Kenyan government for the delay.
“Our colleagues the other side aren’t allowing trucks to move. At one time, they’re insisting that trucks being driven by Ugandan drivers should be handed over to Kenya drivers. We said that doesn’t make sense,” the minister stated.
He provided that President Museveni had been informed of the issue and had spoken to President Uhuru Kenyatta so the matter could be streamlined.
Ireri, for her part, requested that the government increase the number of port health officials and immigration officers so as to ensure better operations at the border.
"Trucks are taking up to three days to cross the border. That could encourage socialising by the drivers and in turn possibly spread the virus further. So these measures could be counterproductive as well. What the Government should do is increase the number of port health and immigration officials to make sure that the border works 24/7 and speed up the truck turnaround time,” she suggested.
Owing to the spread of the virus across the East African region, the truck drivers have had to sign a coronavirus self-quarantine and self-declaration forms while crossing the border.
As per the forms, drivers without symptoms must commit to leaving their trucks for 14 days and self-isolate while those with symptoms commit to being quarantined at a government facility.