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Shipping & Logistics

Truckers accuse State of seeking to drive them off road

 James Macharia.
Transport Secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Transport players have accused the government of frustrating their road operations to force them to use the Standard Gauge Railway.

The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) Executive Director Dennis Ombok said the latest move by the government is suspension of issuance of Covid-19 certificates to cargo crew to force importers to use SGR.

“At the moment, the government is testing less than 50 truck drivers per day. There are not enough testing kits being provided for the exercise, but we know this is a government ploy to frustrate us,” said Mr Ombok.

The players said the government should allow those who prefer road to use it.

The transporters said they will support the suit filed by activist Okiya Omtatah challenging the compulsory use of the SGR direct from Mombasa to Naivasha.

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“We feel we cannot get justice through parliament but we shall mobilise our resources to ensure justice is obtained at the court,” said Merja Abdulla, a transport player.

The High Court last week temporarily suspended the government’s SGR directive on imported goods destined for three neighbouring landlocked countries.

Transport Secretary James Macharia had ordered that the goods be transported via the SGR to Naivasha Inland Container Depot from the Port of Mombasa for clearance.

Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya issued the temporary order which effectively stops the directive issued by Mr Macharia last month in a notice on social media platforms requiring that goods headed to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan to be transported via SGR to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot.

Nyali lawmaker Mohammed Ali had also filed a petition in parliament seeking to impeach Mr Macharia. Mr Ali reportedly got 90 signatures from fellow MPs. Later on, however, a section of leaders from the Coast abandoned Mr Ali and disregarded his motion in parliament to oust the Transport CS claiming they had already met with Mr Macharia and resolved contentious issues affecting Coast people.

“We as Coast MPs, had a meeting on Tuesday encompassing 30 leaders from all constituencies and we met CS Macharia in his office and the most important topic regards the issue of SGR,”said Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo who spoke on behalf of the fellow lawmakers.

“We discussed this for a long time and we also met CS Fred Matiang'i and we agreed that the State would suspend the requirement that all cargo from the coast be transported by SGR.”

Ken Trade chairman Suleiman Shahbal called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to hold a meeting with Coast leaders and other sector players to find a lasting solution to the issue.

“The collapse of the transport and logistics sectors has seriously hurt our economy,” said Mr Shahbal.

“We are requesting the President to set up an inter-ministerial committee for a meeting with Coastal leaders to find a workable alternative solution which should include fast tracking of the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone.”

Mr Shahbal said while the coastal community appreciates the importance of supporting the SGR which is a national project, “we should not support one project at the cost of damaging an entire region and its people.”

“The Coast is part of Kenya and it is suffering. When Mombasa enters a recession, the whole Coast province is affected,” he added.

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