President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, could face the challenge of increased smuggling of contraband goods and illegal substances across the border when they tour Migori County later this month.
The visit was planned for Friday, but security officials told the Nation that it was postponed to accommodate all the guests’ diaries.
Meanwhile, Rongo MP Paul Abuor said it was deferred because opposition leader Raila Odinga had not returned from his tour of India.
Migori County officials say they have intensified surveillance to stem the flow of bhang and illegal imports from Tanzania, much to the annoyance of Kenyan traders.
Police in the county say they have been jolted by the arrival, almost daily, of contraband goods.
They say bhang worth Sh200 million could have been brought into Kenya in the past two years, going by the arrests they made. The substance is said to come from the highlands in Tanzania’s Mara Province.
Mr Benson Makumbi, the Kuria West OCPD under whose jurisdiction the Isebania border point falls, says they are collaborating with Tanzanian security officials to deal with the “ever changing” situation.
“My officers will remain vigilant to ensure smooth operations at the border. There is nothing is unique about the increased deployments,” he said, referring to the increased security ahead of the presidents’ visit.
Whenever there is a sugar shortage locally, some Kenyan traders get it from Tanzania.
But Sony Sugar Company Managing Director Bernard Otieno noted that some of the unregulated sugar imports are repackaged into bags bearing the company’s name to confuse customers.
“Our clients must be vigilant to avoid getting conned by the cartels repackaging poor-quality imported sugar,” he said.
Officially, the declining trade volumes between Kenya and its East African neighbours like Tanzania and Uganda has been blamed on occasional trade tariff wars.
For example, cross-border advisory firm TradeMark East Africa reports that the value of Kenya’s exports to its neighbours dropped from Sh 121 billion in 2016 to Sh114 billion last year, “largely due to a slowdown in the performance of the manufacturing sector and persistent trade disputes with Tanzania”.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Tanzania registered the biggest decline in imports from Kenya, from Sh34.8 billion in 2016 to Sh28.5 billion in 2017.
At the border town, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials have increased inspection in what one official said was also meant to beat tax dodging.
KRA Deputy Commissioner for Western Region John Gathatwa told the Nation that the crackdown on contraband goods will be intensified in collaboration with other agencies.
“We share information with our (Tanzanian) counterparts. We tell them what we gather, and they tell us what they have to ensure that these goods do not reach the people,” he said.
On Wednesday, KRA destroyed illegal goods at the Migori Airstrip, which was to be followed by a baraza at the Isebania border point.
Cross-border movement is no longer as easy as it once was, with hawk-eyed security officials conducting meticulously searching those going through.