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10km snarl-up at border causes untold suffering for truck crews

By Musa Radoli
Thursday, August 8th, 2019 00:00 | 3 mins read
Trucks lined up to access the Busia One Stop Border Point. The queues can get as long as five to 10 kilometres with drivers waiting up to three days to get cleared. Photo/MUSA RADOLI

Leaner roads, corrupt officials and inefficient computerised systems at One Stop Border Points (OSBPs) are causing untold suffering for long distance, heavy imported cargo transporters heading to Uganda, Rwanda and interior States.

Faster clearance of cargo at the Port of Mombasa followed by smooth movement of the trucks through improved highways in the interior, lead to pilling up of trucks at the OSBPs which are severely understaffed to handle the volume of incoming cargo.

A West Kenya region Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official, who sought anonymity, said these points should be manned 24 hours but there are insufficient personnel to ensure that this was done to lessen the fast piling cargo.

After a long haul from the Port of Mombasa and on arrival at Malaba (border with Uganda) and Busia OSBP, truckers have to endure long queues, often as long as five to 10 kilometres, of uncleared trucks to deliver goods worth hundreds of millions of shillings.

Grueling journey

Drivers who spoke to Business Hub said they are forced to stay in the long queues for three or more days before getting clearance to deliver goods not only to Uganda and Rwanda but also landlocked countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan.

The drivers and their crew are forced to spend cash meant for the entire journey to pay for lodgings and food while those that are cash strapped spend hours upon hours sleeping in the cabins of their cargo trucks.

The truckers’ OSBP cross-border clearance nightmares are not just restricted to the Malaba and Busia exit points but also in Tanzania at Holili and Namanga where recently owners of transit cargo were up in arms over the delays occasioned by KRA officials.

A trucker from Multiple Hauliers Hussein Mohammed who was transporting assorted imported cargo destined for Kigali in Rwanda from Mombasa said: “It is a long grueling journey from Mombasa driving mostly uphill. It can take us up to two days to reach these border points only to get stuck at the OBSP points.

“I arrived here in Malaba three days ago. By now I should have delivered the cargo and on my back to collect more, but am still stuck in the same spot. There is very little movement,” added Mohammed.

Bribery allegations

Most of his colleagues who were stuck at Malaba and Busia points with cargo from Mombasa, the Embakasi dry port, Kisumu and Eldoret told of similar experiences.  Most of them are veteran, long distance transporters with 15 or more years of experience.

George Kasyoka with Bollore International, narrating the truckers’ woes, pointed out that they were forced to spend at least $2,000 (Sh206,820) on more than 56 police road blocks right from Busia and Malaba all the way to Mombasa and the same on return with cargo.

Kasyoka said: “All these road blocks on the Kenyan roads are illegal toll stations where officers manning them are milking us dry. Once in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and even Tanzania these road blocks disappear.”

He said the prolonged delays at the OSBPs and the bribes were adversely hurting the trade between Kenya’s port and the landlocked countries some of which were opting to import cargo through Dar-es-Salaam.

A KRA official, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press, echoed Kasyoka’s sentiments saying there was also the contagious problem of corruption amongst not only KRA officials but other security agencies manning the border points.

However, other KRA officials stationed at these points exonerated themselves from the delays at the border points, blaming it on “inefficient computerised systems” used in the clearing processes for the trucks to cross.

The officials, who declined to be named because they are not cleared to speak to the press, said apart from inefficient computerised cargo clearing systems, the trucks arriving at the borders 24 hours daily are in excess of 300 putting more pressure on the system and the few personnel.

“Because our computer system are synchronised with those of Uganda Revenue Authority, whenever ours misfunction, then it slows down clearance,” he said.

According to the Busia County Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Peter Kubebea, the Busia OSBP is critical for the economies of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern DRC and South Sudan because the bulk of imported petroleum products from Kenya goes through that point.

Crucial products

“Though Uganda has huge deposits of crude oil, just like the other landlocked countries, it heavily depends on Kenya for refined petroleum products like petrol ,jet oil, Kerosene, diesel and lubricants.

But because all roads leading to Malaba and Busia have single lanes, there is delay in delivering this critical product,” he said. 

The KNCCI County chairman said that Busia also handles other finished petroleum products from the Kenya Oil Refineries.

“These are critical products that drive the economies of these countries, any delays at the border means acute fuel shortages,” he added.

Kubebea says that Malaba’s OSBP is meant mainly for imported manufactured products destined for markets in landlocked countries, the bulk of which are collected by the truckers from the Kilindini Port in Mombasa and others at the Dry Land Port in Embakasi Nairobi.

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