As part of the change in policy, truckers were supposed to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing which sparked a protest from drivers who parked their vehicles and blocked off the roads demanding that Uganda streamline its COVID-19 testing protocols in line with other EAC countries. The Drivers were charged 100,000 Shillings or 30 US Dollars for each test.
The long queue of trucks that had
parked at the Malaba border points in Eastern Uganda has now reduced to cover a
distance of 40 kilometres from the initial 70-kilometres stretch.
The truck pile-up at the Uganda-Kenya
border started two weeks ago following Uganda’s proposed review of the Regional
Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS), which allows COVID-19
testing after 14 days, to a shorter duration of seven days due to the high
transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
As part of the change in policy, truckers
were supposed to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing which sparked a protest
from drivers who parked their vehicles and blocked off the roads demanding that
Uganda streamline its COVID-19 testing protocols in line with other EAC
countries. The Drivers were charged 100,000 Shillings or 30 US Dollars for each
But they rejected the charges, throwing
into limbo, all the states that rely on the Northern Corridor transit route for
imports and exports. They demanded that Uganda eliminate the COVID-19 test
charges or do away with the mandatory testing like the other EAC states. While
the dispute raged, there was a spike in fuel prices with a litre of petrol
going for as high as 10,000 Shillings in some places
The Ugandan government later
abandoned the policy and said it will conduct free rapid COVID-19 testing as part of measures to clear
the backlog. The government also announced that negative results
from national accredited laboratories in the respective member states would be recognized and asked authorities to implement an EAC Health Pass to enable quick
verification of COVID-19 test certificates and vaccination status to ease
movement of trucks into the country.
Now, officials at the Malaba Border
Post have said that they have intensified their operations in order to clear
the backlog created by the protest. Dr Choudhry Okula, the in-charge of Malaba
Port Health said that they are clearing on average 700 trucks every day.
Records show that 2,732 trucks were cleared between January 14 and January 17,
Dr Okula, however, adds that the
process has been affected by a change in staff at the Kenyan side of the border
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Emmanuel Otim, the Border
Internal Security Officer said that the deployment of more senior staff at the
border has helped to quicken the process of clearing the trucks.
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But truckers on both Malaba and
Busia borders say that the delays have affected their businesses, spending more
days on the road than earlier anticipated. Before the snarl-up, the drivers
would take not more than a week on a trip from Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, South
Sudan and Burundi. But they are into the third week now, without making any
They say that even after omitting
the charges, the slow pace of COVID testing and clearance of cargo is causing a
huge jam. Initial reports indicated that the jam stretched for over 130 kilometres
from Malaba border town to Lwandeti market in Kakamega County, on the Kenyan side for trucks that were
waiting for clearance to enter Uganda.
Mohamed Noor, a fuel truck driver
said that it took him seven days to reach Malaba border from Eldoret in Kenya,
a journey that would previously take only three hours. He added that even after
being cleared at the border, he can’t proceed with the journey because of the
heavy traffic on the road.
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Abubaker Hassan Bwata, a truck
driver from Kenya says that he spent six days before entering Uganda, and
wondered why Ugandan authorities would insist on testing people who had negative
PCR tests from a country within the same bloc.
Swahili //Cue in; "Test
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Kevin Wasonga, another truck
driver says that even if the mandatory COVID-19 testing at the border has been
withdrawn by the Ugandan government, some of the drivers are still hesitant to
enter the country.
Kirinya Ayubu is the URN Bureau Chief of Elgon/Bukedi Sub Regions . He holds a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication from Islamic University in Uganda and a Diploma in Computer Science and Information Technology from the same University.