Truck drivers protest Covid testing fee at Malaba border

Cargo trucks at Malaba border point on January 3. The drivers, who are protesting charges for Covid-19 tests, brought business to near halt, saying the Shs110,000 or $30 imposed by Uganda from January 1, 2022 for testing any person entering the country is exorbitant and time wasting. Story on P.6 PHOTO/JOSEPH OMOLLO

What you need to know:

  • According to the Ministry of Health, the new Covid-19 results will be valid for seven days.

Truck drivers on both Uganda and Kenya sides of Malaba border point have parked their vehicles, protesting the Covid-19 testing fees thus paralysing business and transport.

The drivers claim that the Shs110,000 fee that Uganda imposed is too high.
The chairman of the Uganda National Transport Alliance, Mr William Busuulwa, yesterday said the protest has created long queues at the border.

“The lines of parked trucks are now stretching 20 kilometres on both sides. The drivers say Kenya has been carrying out Covid-19 tests on truck drivers for free, but Uganda doesn’t recognise their result certificates,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Health, the new Covid-19 results will be valid for seven days.

Mr Busuulwa said the drivers ply the route more than four times a month, which means they will have to pay Shs440,000 for testing yet they used to pay half of that before in the same period.

“Our worry is that if these barriers continue, Kenyans will change the transport route to South Sudan. Kenyan government is currently constructing a road to South Sudan. If they decided to use that road because of such costs, Uganda will lose a lot in revenue and business,” he said.   

Mr Westminster Kwemei, a truck driver, said they tested from Kenya but health authorities on the Ugandan side do not recognise the results.

“I thought the testing machines do the same thing. On the Kenyan side, testing is for free, but Ugandans are charging money. This is exploitation,” he said.

He said they have also been paying parking fees from their own pockets for the last three days since their bosses aren’t willing to reimburse it.

Mr Alfred Njorege, a driver,  appealed to both countries to solve the problem.
“It is my wish that the two countries harmonise their working relations so that testing is done by one country and is recognised by the other,” he said.

Mr Chodrey Okule, the head of Port Health Services at Malaba border, said the mandatory testing is aimed at curb ing the spread of the Covid-19 variant.

“We have severally disapproved some drivers who come with Covid-19 negative results from the Kenyan side and when they are tested, they are found to be positive,” Mr Okule said.

Mr Duncan Kakonge, the URA eastern regional manager, said they are in talks with their Kenyan counterparts, who are engaging the leaders of the truck drivers to halt the protest.

On average, Malaba border handles 1300 trucks a day.  

In May 2020, truck drivers protested Covid-19 payments leading to traffic jam that stretched more than 70kms. 
The two governments had to revise the rates before the strike was called off. 
Malaba border is one of the major routes for Ugandan goods to the sea.

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