Plans are under way to establish control checks at designated points across the country in a move expected to contain proliferation of contraband and substandard goods, improve security and check on illegal immigrants.
The checks, which will be stationed strategically along highways leading to neighbouring countries, will complement existing border crossing points.
At least 13 stations will be built in Wajir, Garissa, Malindi (Kilifi county), Lungalunga (Kwale), Archers Post (Isiolo), Taveta, Oloitoktok, Namanga, Isebania, Busia, Malaba, Lake Baringo and Marich Pass (north of Kitale). Some of the check points are more than 400km from border posts.
Known as Inland Border Control Checks (IBCCs), the stations will have structures similar to those at the border points with people and goods entering into the country expected to go through thorough screening.
The decision to establish the stations was informed by continued entry of substandard and contraband goods into the country despite existence of the gazetted border points due to porous borders. For instance, there are goods entering the country from Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania that evade checks at designated border points.
While traders smuggle electronic goods through the Somalia border, there have been concerns of dairy products coming into the country from Uganda.
Grains enter into Kenya from Tanzania while traders smuggle an assortment of goods from Ethiopia including narcotics as well as illegal immigrants.
Ethiopia’s case is particularly alarming since traders don’t use the ultra-modern One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at Moyale built at a cost of Sh846 million, which is fast turning into a white elephant, with unscrupulous traders using panya routes.
At an OSBP, customs and immigration procedures are undertaken by officials from the bordering countries housed under one roof.
Kennedy Nyaiyo, director of Border Management Secretariat said building of IBCCs is intended to rid the country of substandard goods and improve security. Such border checks are also in other parts of the world including the United States of America (USA) where the points check illegal immigrants especially from Mexico.
“We will collaborate with KeNHA (Kenya National Highways Authority) which will provide access to road reserves where the stations will be built,” Mr Nyaiyo said in a phone interview.
He did not however disclose the cost of the project saying funding details would be disclosed at a later date. But sources within the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), which is spearheading the project, indicated that the budget for the stations has been approved and is expected to be factored in the 2020/2021 financial year.
A brief on establishment of the stations seen by Shipping & Logistics notes that most of the 4,100km of border line between Kenya’s five neighbours are highly porous since they are not adequately covered. “The purpose of the IBCC inspection stations is to deter illegal immigration and smuggling activities that may have bypassed the official border crossings. Multi-agency officers may stop a vehicle at the IBCC for screening, rummaging of luggage, brief questioning of occupants depending on intelligence shared, sanction persons of interest and those who appear suspicious,” says the brief.
According to sources, there were initial concerns that the stations might become an impediment to trade as they would constitute non-tariff barriers. In order to minimise delays of transit trucks, the points will only be used to check goods entering the country.
Already, there are checks that are carried out in the identified points where there are road blocks, with the IBCCs setting the stage for building of structures. At Archers Post which is 470km from the Moyale OSBP for instance, vehicles and passengers travelling from Marsabit and Moyale are screened before they are allowed to proceed with the journey.
Establishment of the check points come at a time OSBPs along the Northern Corridor are on the spotlight over delays that transporters say are rampant, especially for trucks carrying export goods.
While there have been efforts to facilitate faster movement of trucks crossing to Uganda onwards to Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi through the OSBPs, not so for trucks carrying export goods to Mombasa. The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) yesterday said it takes up to two days for trucks entering Kenya to be cleared a the Malaba border.
“While it takes less than two hours to clear trucks heading to Uganda, this is not the case with those entering the country. It takes up to two days for those on the return trip which interferes with our turnaround,” said Mercy Ireri, KTA chief operations officer.
Last month, she said, a truck driver was stopped in Eldoret after travelling for 130km and asked to obtain genuine documents for his cargo.
This problem has also been compounded by the fact that some government agencies have not been linked to the Kenya TradeNet System which is being used by government agencies to lodge documents and clear goods.
The Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) says it is also in the process of ensuring other OSPBs on the corridor are operational with the view of facilitating seamless movement of goods along the route which is currently facing stiff competition from the Central Corridor that runs from Dar-es-salaam in Tanzania to the DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
According to Fred Paul Babalanda, deputy director customs and trade facilitation at the NCTTCA, of the 13 OSBPs along the corridor, nine are operational while the others are in different stages of establishment.
Among the nine operational ones, the most vibrant are Busia, Malaba, Namanga and Taveta on the Kenya-Uganda and Kenya-Tanzania borders. On the Rwanda-DRC border, the Rwanda one has been completed while the DRC one is under construction.
“Although some of the OSPBs are operating smoothly, areas to hold animals have not been set aside and there is need to provide for the facilities because cross-border trade involves trade in live animals which require disease control measures,” said Mr Babalanda.
Official data released by the NCTTCA last year showed that performance at Malaba and Busia OSBPs declined slightly compared to 2018. For instance, the average clearance time at Malaba increased from 4.7 hours in 2018 to 5.19 hours in 2019.
At Busia border, time increased from 1.39 hours in 2018 to 1.45 hours in 2019. The time includes the total time spent by trucks queuing and parking at the border point.