Northern Corridor truck driver protests disrupt cargo transport

A traffic snarl up caused by trucks along the northern corridor highway at Kocholia area.

Photo credit: Brian Ojamaa | Nation Media Group

Long distance truck drivers plying the Northern Corridor are protesting fresh mandatory Covid-19 testing before entering Uganda, disrupting transport operations.

A traffic snarl-up is building, stretching more than 70km, with the drivers fearing that they will contract waterborne diseases due to lack of basic facilities such as toilets along the highway.

“We have no clean drinking water and toilets, and we are depleting our food stocks, with no cash to purchase more. The situation is moving from bad to worse,” said Kaim Abdi, a stranded driver.

"A cholera outbreak may strike anytime due to lack of water and such facilities like toilets along the highway.”

He was among hundreds of drivers who had not been cleared since the new regulations were introduced by Ugandan authorities late last year.

Drivers must pay Sh3,600 to get tested and receive a certificate but they have protested against the “exorbitant” fee and the slow clearance process.

Most of the drivers are from Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru and Nairobi, transporting goods to landlocked countries in east and central Africa.

The traffic jam had stretched from the Malaba border crossing to Kanduyi in Bungoma County by yesterday, with the drivers petitioning Kenyan and Ugandan officials to resolve the stalemate over the new Covid-19 testing requirements.

"I’m suffering because I have spent all my allowance and there are no indications that I will be cleared soon to proceed with the journey,” Mr Abdi said.

He said he is paid an allowance of Sh2,000 but has had to request additional funds from his employer to keep him going.

Uganda authorities

Mr Ibrahim Mapopo, who operates between Mombasa and Kampala, said he had been on the road since December 30 and there was no indication that the impasse would be resolved.

"I have children to take to school but I am still trapped here on the highway when I should have delivered the goods and returned to facilitate their return to school,” he said.

The Ugandan authorities declined to comment on the matter.

"We call upon Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to come to the ground and see for himself what we are undergoing," he said.

Mr Rashid Juma, another driver who had spent two days in the jam as he travelled from Mombasa to Kocholia, said that residents had stigmatised truck drivers and viewed them as carriers of Covid-19.

"We have had to buy our own gas cookers and food to prepare meals due to lack of hotels," he said.

"I usually take six days to deliver goods from Mombasa to Kampala but I have spent two weeks on the road and the problem is getting worse.”

He asked public health officials to put up mobile toilets along the highway.

The strike now threatens to hurt exports and imports between the two countries and Uganda's exports to international markets.

Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa.

South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

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