Authorities from Uganda and Kenya Tuesday held consistent meetings to draw solutions after nationals from both countries took informal decisions to close the Malaba border.
The aggrieved parties, who included truck drivers and traders, were protesting new operational measures set by Ugandan authorities to clear empty trucks.
Among the measures, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) communicated plans to have the empty trucks cleared from 7am-7pm which replaces the usual 7am-midnight.
According to URA’s Eastern Region manager Haruna Wadda Mutebi, this was due to the high volumes of over 1, 300 cargo trucks handled at Malaba border every day.
“We have put it as a trial measure and we shall continue altering it until we resume our earlier practice of handling both cargo and empty trucks concurrently,” Haruna said on Tuesday.
But people affected by the changes disregarded the communication accusing the customs officials of “wanting to socialize.”
Consequently, several protestors put logs and huge stones at the entry point to Kenya, paralyzing operations at the Malaba one stop border point for over eight hours. Both sides deployed security forces to disperse protesters using minimal force.
The protesters demanded implementation of a recent directive issued by Uganda’s East African Affairs minister Rebecca Kadaga who ordered normal clearing of empty cargo trucks at Malaba.
They also asked for the transfer of some of the officials working with Uganda Customs whom they allege to have been frustrating cargo clearance.
Kenneth Osia, the chairperson of Kenya National Freighters and Warehousing Association said the decision by Ugandan authorities has economically affected them.
“Today, we are saying enough is enough” he remarked.
Malaba border clearing agent Suzan Atim wondered why other one stop border points are concurrently handling clearing of both cargo and empty trucks at the same time while Malaba seeks to introduce a specific time.
“I treat this as being incompetent and I appeal to government to relieve some of these officers from duty since they seem to be subversive,” she said.
Meanwhile, Malaba (Uganda) Town Council LC3 chairperson Andrew Orono Mugisha commended protestors “for blocking the border to show government its economic importance.”
“They were right but I advise them to go by what authorities have agreed upon since they say that the measure will be reviewed,” said Mugisha.
Tororo Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RCC) Albert Amula appealed to the business communities to ensure calm.