10,000 Uganda-bound trucks stuck in Kenya

Trucks at Webuye in Bungoma County, Kenya, make their way to the Kenya-Uganda border at Malaba on January 17. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • Meanwhile, Ugandan motorists who operate around the border have resorted to buying fuel from Kenya.

More than 10,000 Uganda-bound trucks are stuck in Kenya following a two-week strike by truck drivers against mandatory testing for Covid-19.

The Malaba border post is supposed to clear between 1,750 and 2,000 trucks daily.
“If about 2,000 trucks pass through Malaba border each day, that means the two weeks drivers have been on strike, they held back about 28,000 trucks, and that is at Malaba border alone,” Mr Stephen Wanyama, who had just crossed into Uganda after spending 14 days in a traffic gridlock on the Malaba-Eldoret highway, said yesterday.

Mr Richard Akol, another driver, said despite the Ugandan government relaxing the mandatory tests for truck drivers, the damage was already done.

He said the drivers’ protest had caused a huge snarl up, which stretched more than 80kms.
Mr Akol estimates that each kilometre of the gridlock holds at least 150 trucks. 

“There should be more than 14,000 trucks queued on the Kenyan side waiting to cross into Uganda,” he said.
Mr Wanyama said he had been in the jam for two weeks. 

“I have been stuck in the truck. I bought a gas cooker which I have been using to prepare food,’’ he said.

Mr Wanyama’s biggest challenge has been accessing places of convenience. “I would sit in the truck and wait until nightfall then sneak out to answer the nature’s call,” he said.

Mr Yovan Mangara, the chairperson of the clearing agents at Malaba border, said Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) was clearing up to 1,000 trucks daily, but feared the huge queues in Kenya might take more than a week.

“The Malaba border lies on the northern corridor route, with a huge daily traffic flow estimated at more than 1,750 on a daily basis; so, we don’t expect this snarl up of trucks to clear within a short time. It might take between seven and 10 days,” Mr Mangara said.

Mr Sudi Kaula Motela, the chairperson of Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Union, said other delays were as a result of the many weighbridges on the road from Malaba to Jinja.

Mr Jamir Wanga, a driver on the route, said one of the fuel tankers had overturned in Bugoma, spilling more than 30,000 litres of fuel as its driver tried to negotiate the jam.

“I saw residents scrambling for free fuel after it overturned. The jam is huge and negotiating through it is hard,’’ he said. 

Ugandans fuelling in Kenya
Meanwhile, Ugandan motorists who operate around the border have resorted to buying fuel from Kenya.
Motorcycles and vehicles bearing Ugandan number plates are seen lining up at the border waiting to cross into Kenya to buy fuel where the prices are as low as Shs3,300 for petrol and diesel respectively.

This is in sharp contrast to Uganda where the price of petrol is oscillating between Shs5,000 and Shs10, 000, while diesel is going for Shs4,500.

Mr Ronald Maum Shumuk, a motorist in Busia Town, said he is soon parking his car because of the fuel price. 
“Every morning, you keep wondering whether to buy food for home or fuel the car, it’s a real challenge,” he said.

Mr Juma Yahaya, a clearing agent and a councillor for Eastern Division in Busia, said he had resorted to buying fuel in Kenya because it is pocket friendly.

“When buying fuel in Kenya, you are sure to save at least Shs2,000 or more from each litre of petrol and that is why many of us are fueling from across the border,’’ Mr Yahaya said.
Mr Akim Wacha, a boda boda rider in Busia Town, said he also buys fuel from Kenya.

“When you buy fuel in Uganda, you are forced to increase the fare for your customers yet many of them still want to pay the same amount they used to pay before the prices skyrocketed,” he said.

At Magrib Pump Station in Busia-Kenya, Ugandan registered motorcycles and motor vehicles are seen snaking through to buy fuel, according to one of the pump attendants, who preferred anonymity.


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