Traders carrying out their business operations at the Namanga border have accused the Tanzanian government of unfair taxation and creating a ‘hostile’ business environment.
The traders complained that there has been continued harassment of business owners operating at the border post despite the heads of state from the two countries signing an agreement in July 2017 for free movement within ‘no man’s land’.
Addressing members of the Parliamentary Committee on Regional Integration in Namanga town on Thursday, the business community said they are often arrested and fined exorbitantly when they cross over to sell their wares yet their counterparts from Tanzania trade freely when in the Kenyan soil.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms. Naisula Lesuuda assured them that their grievances would be looked into so as to foster better relations between citizens of both countries.
Lesuuda said relations between Kenya and Tanzania have been strained in the recent past due to lack of clarity on laws and regulations that are supposed to be maintained by the two nations.
“We are here on a fact finding mission to figure out the challenges that our people have been complaining about for so many years and to provide solutions for them so that we citizens of East Africa Community will be able to co-exist freely,” she said
Other members of the committee present included: Memusi Kanchori, Ms Janet Teyiaa, William Kamket, Mathias Nyababe Robi and Hamisi Tangaza.
The residents also pleaded to the Parliamentary Committee to address the issue of unemployment among the youths of Namanga accusing the One Stop Border post management of employing outsiders.
“As a youth representative, it has been heartbreaking that majority of us remain jobless yet we have qualifications and skills as required only to have non-locals employed,” David Sepeina, a resident lamented.
Kenya and Tanzania have had on-and-off trade disputes despite the two belonging to a common market which allows for free movement of goods, people, labor, services and capital within six member countries.
The latest trade disagreement was a week ago when Tanzanian Authorities blocked confectionary from Kenya on what was believed to be a misinterpretation of a duty exemption rule on sugar products.
Last year, the Tanzanian Government seized and auctioned off 1300 cows from Kenya which had crossed the border in search of pastures and water, 6400 one-day old chicks on transit were also seized and burnt on suspicion they could spread bird flu.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially launch the border post next month to enhance easy of movement of goods and people within the border town.
The one-stop border post aims at deepening policy integration and reducing barriers to trade in the region.
It is also expected to boost trade by improving coordination and collaboration between the different agencies, thus contributing to a reduction in transport cost, whilst increasing volumes of transit cargo through the Northern Corridor.
The launch of the Namanga One Stop Border Post comes after the inauguration of the One Stop Border Post in Busia in February this year. Other one stop border posts in Kenya are in Lunga Lunga, Holili and Isebania.
Kenya and Tanzania have seen a steady growth in revenue from cross-border trade since the introduction of the one-stop border posts four years ago.
The two nations trade in businesses worth Sh38 billion. Kenya largely imports wheat, textiles and clothing, hides and skin, oil seeds, vegetables, rice, paper and paperboard, footwear, wood, plastic and rubber, among other products from Tanzania.
By Rop Janet/ Albert Lemomo