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Stand-off Brewing at Namanga over Covid-19 testing

A border stand-off between Kenya and Tanzania is brewing at the Namanga border barely a fortnight after the two countries signed a mutual agreement on the testing of truck drivers for Covid-19.
Truck drivers from Tanzania have accused the Kenyan government officials at the border of forcing them to undergo re-testing despite being in possession of Covid-19 certificates issued to them from their country.
The drivers said this was against the agreement signed by the two nations to ensure a seamless cross border trade and movement of goods.
In the statement signed by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and his Tanzanian counter-part Engineer Isaac Kamwelwe in Namanga town on May 22, the two countries agreed that truck drivers from both sides will be tested for Covid-19 before the commencement of their journeys at the point of origin using standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The truck drivers who have been tested would then be issued with a 14-day Covid-19 free certificate by competent authorities, which should be mutually recognized by the two countries.

Longido District Commissioner Frank Mwaisumbe on Wednesday said Tanzania cannot continue to do business with Kenya if she continues to breach the agreement.
Speaking in his office, Mwaisumbe said Kenya had reneged on what the two countries agreed on and if the stand-off continues, their drivers will be forced to drop Kenyan luggage at the border.
“It was agreed that truck drivers should be tested at the country of origin and allowed to cross the Namanga border without being subjected to similar tests again, but this has been broken by Kenya as Tanzanian truck drivers are forced to undergo the tests again in Kenya,” he said.
However, Kenya Government spokesperson Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna said Kenya had not received any official communication from the Tanzanian authorities on the same, adding that once communication has been received, the government would act accordingly.
Similarly, Kenyan clearing agents at the border town appealed to the government to intervene and address the stand-off which had disrupted the movement of goods.
The clearing agents who took to the streets Wednesday to protest the delay said business at the One-Stop Border Point (OSPB) had been affected by the mistrust between the two countries and called for mutual testing of Covid-19.
Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) Namanga branch, Secretary General Elizabeth Kinyanjui said health officials from both Kenya and Tanzania should conduct the tests at one point to avoid further conflict.
Kinyanjui said business had been disrupted by the frequent stand-offs between the two countries, resulting in losses and establishing a mutual testing point would reduce conflict and ensure the seamless flow of goods and trade.
“We are calling for one testing point for truck drivers whereby health officials from both countries will conduct the tests and issue certificates. This will ensure that there is no suspicion and mistrust between the two countries thus the seamless flow of goods” she said.
The clearing agents further accused the health officials at OSPB of delaying testing and relaying of the results despite a mobile laboratory being stationed at the town.
The agents said the testing kits were very few compared to the number of truck drivers awaiting testing, hence causing delays as they have to wait for three to four days before being cleared.
A spot check by KNA on Thursday at the border point revealed that testing of drivers was on-going though at that moment there were no trucks crossing the border from both sides.
By Rop Janet

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