Truck drivers on Thursday blocked and paralyzed operations at the busy Malaba One-Stop Border Post protesting against what the termed as “harassment and discrimination” by Ugandan authorities.
The drivers who spoke through their Malaba Chairman Kenneth Okeyo outlined six issues they want the Kenyan and Ugandan authorities to address with urgency before they pave way for normal cargo transport operations at the border post.
Priority on their demand list is the release of a Kenyan truck driver who is allegedly being held in Malaba Uganda after he tested COVID-19 positive while Uganda.
Okeyo said they want the driver who is being held by Malaba Uganda Port by Health officials to be allowed to return to Kenya to seek for treatment.
“Our colleague has been in custody for 48 hours. This may endanger his life since he is Coronavirus positive. What we want is for the Kenyan authorities to intervene and ensure he is released,” he stated.
The drivers are also protesting what they term as the delayed release of COVID-19 test results in Malaba of Uganda.
They claim samples of some of their colleagues were picked on May 16, but to date they are not aware of the outcome of the tests.
Okeyo also told KNA that they are suffering in the hands of Uganda security officers hence they want the Kenyan Government to intervene and have the Ugandan Government reign on the officers.
He said: “We are not ready for more frustration. Ugandan security officers remove our truck number plates whenever we alight from our vehicles to either buy food or relieve ourselves”.
For instance if a driver leaves Malaba going to DR Congo, he is not allowed to alight until he crosses into DR Congo.
The cargo transporters also expressed displeasure with the testing exercise in Uganda noting that it can lead to further spread of the virus.
“They don’t change their gloves and they can infect other people as they move about their business. Ugandan health personnel should take it upon themselves to follow the laid down health rules of testing COVID-19 without risking drivers who are negative,” he added.
The truck drivers hence suggested that if Ugandans fear they are out to infect them with Coronavirus, then the Ugandan government should suspend cargo haulage from Kenya until the pandemic is contained.
“If Uganda is not ready to accommodate us, then they should divert the route so that we use the Kitale-Lodwar route to Juba and other parts of South Sudan,” Okeyo said.
Early this month the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association, Secretary-General Nicholas Mbugua complained that Kenyan truck drivers are denied access to basic needs such as food, water, and accommodation once they are in Uganda under a perception that they
have Coronavirus even after testing negative and allowed to move.
By Melechezedeck Ejakait