Lockdown: How transporters in border districts beat security

Friday June 19 2020

Businesses return on Elgin Street in  Masaka

Businesses return on Elgin Street in Masaka Town after nearly three months of lockdown, on June 17. PHOTO BY MALIK FAHAD JJINGO 

By Monitor Team

Although movement outside border districts is currently banned in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19, some transporters from the affected areas have come up with tricks to beat the lockdown.

Daily Monitor has learn that some taxi and bus operators in Fort Portal Town have created illegal routes to ferry in passengers from some border districts. The operators are reportedly doing this with help of some boda boda riders and private cars.

The taxi and bus operators from Kampala through Fort Portal now stop at Rwimi Town on the Bunyangabu-Kasese boundary where they have created an ungazetted park.
Rwimi Town is now the meeting place, where boda boda riders or private vehicles pick up and drop off passengers to and from Kasese.

Daily Monitor has learnt that a similar stage has been created at Katunguru Town, on the Kasese- Mbarara road.
To ease the business, the taxi and bus operators have reportedly created a WhatsApp group where they connect with passengers and brokers.

Sources in Kasese and Rwimi confided to Daily Monitor that the boda boda riders charge Shs20,000 to transport a passenger from Kasese to Rwimi very early in the morning when security has not mounted the roadblocks.

The Kasese deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Joshua Masereka Kisembo, confirmed the development saying his office has been bombarded with reports of taxis operating illegally.


“We have been reliably informed that there is a WhatsApp group which is mobilising passengers so that they gather around and aboard to different destinations,” Mr Masereka said.

He said his office is looking at giving permits to only people who are transporting patients but with medical forms.

But he said some people are misusing the permits to travel to other places and not those indicated on the documents.

Ms Jane Asiimwe Muhindo, the Bunyangabu Resident District Commissioner, said they are aware of the illegal movements and that they will sit as a district Covid-19 taskforce to close the loopholes.
However, the situation is not any different in Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kagadi districts.

The Kagadi communications officer, Mr George Guryetonda, said the district has heightened inspection at major entry points into the district although many people continue to sneak in and out through ungazetted routes

Mr Guryetonda said people use motorcycles to make illegal movements to areas where the ban on public transport was lifted.

At Lake Albert, Mr Guryetonda said one major landing site of Kitebere has been gazetted as the only entry point where checking of arrivals from Ntoroko and Kikuube districts are conducted.

He, however, noted that there are people who are still sneaking in and out through other ungazzeted landing sites at the lake.

Rakai and Kyotera
In Rakai and Kyotera districts, which are at the Uganda-Tanzania border, police engage in daily running battles with boda boda riders who continue to ferry passengers.

Boda boda riders use village routes to different places within and the neighbouring districts.
Mr Ben Nuwamanya, the Rakai District police commander, said they have since last week impounded more than 50 boda bodas and arrested about 80 motorists for defying the presidential directive.

But taxi operators in Masaka Town have, however, faulted the Covid-19 task forces in Kyotera and Rakai for failing to monitor commuter taxis from their respective areas.

Mr Bashir Mawanda, the chairperson of Masaka Taxis Drivers Association, said they have so far impounded six commuter taxis, some of which had full capacity of 14 passengers, in a period of one week.

Mr Mawanda said their efforts to help the government contain the spread of Covid-19 are affected by laxity of task forces of the two neighbouring districts.
“We are wondering where these commuter taxis pass to come to Masaka when there are local leaders in Kyotera and Rakai to stop them,” he said.

Mr Robert Sserunjogi, a member of Masaka Taxis Drivers Association, said they have learnt that even cargo trucks transport people from Kyotera and Rakai to other destinations.

Mr Herman Ssentongo, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner, said going forward, all passengers found in taxis from border districts will be subjected to Covid-19 test and later place under quarantine for 14 days.

“We shall do this to curtail unnecessary movement of people from border districts,” he said, adding “After the 14 days, we shall later take them to court for compromising government efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.”

Ms Judith Akol, the Kyotera District police commander, said their officers will continue making patrols along all village routes connecting to the districts of Masaka and Lwengo.
Ms Akol said the exercise will help them arrest commuter taxi operators who ferry passengers from the area.

Kyotera and Rakai have so far recorded more than 300 positive cases of Covid-19 whereby 43 of these are community cases from Kasensero Landing Site, Mutukula border and Nangoma Island.
But Dr Edward Muwanga, the Kyotera District health officer, said community infections have reduced in the past three days.
Of the 10,483 people that have been tested since Monday, none of them has turned positive.


Defying directive
Mr Ben Nuwamanya, the Rakai District police commander, said they have since last week impounded more than 50 boda bodas and arrested about 80 motorists for defying the presidential directive.

Affected districts
President Museveni recently clarified that public transport will not operate in 40 border districts for another 21 days, starting from June 4 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The directive has affected border districts, including Amuru, Kasese, Ntoroko, Busia, Malaba, Bundibugyo, Kagadi, Kikuube, Buliisa and Hoima.

Compiled by Bill Oketch, Felix Basiime, Joel Kaguta, Alex Tumuhimbise, Ambrose Musasizi & Wilson Kutamba