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Economy

Uganda now faults transfer of transit cargo to Naivasha

 Malaba border
Trucks stuck in traffic at Malaba border on May 27, 2020. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI 

Kampala has faulted Nairobi’s decision to move clearance of all transit cargo from Mombasa to Naivasha despite an array of incentives that include 30-day free storage period.

Ugandan minister of Works and Transport Katumba Wamala, in a letter to his Kenyan counterpart last Friday, protested Kenya’s move and wants use of Naivasha inland container depot (ICD) to be optional.

“The option of using Naivasha ICD for transit cargo would not reduce human traffic movement as truck drivers will still be required to pick the containers from Naivasha to their destinations,” said Gen Wamala in the letter, which he said followed consultations with Uganda’s private sector.

“It’s our considered opinion that the use of Naivasha ICD, which is part of our long-term regional infrastructure development, should remain optional.”

On Wednesday, however, Transport secretary James Macharia told the Business Daily that Kenya’s position was as a result of a decision reached during the May 12 virtual East African Community Heads of State Summit on measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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The meeting was attended by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda and current bloc’s chair).

Kenya moved the first consignment — a 200 20-foot equivalent units of cargo by Bolloré Transport and Logistics — direct from Mombasa to the standard gauge railway station at Suswa near Naivasha on May 7.

The Kenya Revenue Authority has since gazetted Naivasha ICD as a customs station, and announced on Tuesday it had started clearing transit cargo at the new transhipment station.

Mr Macharia insists all importers from landlocked countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi using the Mombasa port will from next week be required to pick their cargo from Naivasha ICD.

“We have communicated to all partner states. We shall be expecting from June 2 that all cargo is collected from Naivasha and that’s Kenya’s position,” Mr Macharia said via telephone.

“We don’t know whether people have got vested interests in this, but we are very clear on what we want and this is a matter which was discussed by the Heads of States’ Summit.”

The use of the Naivasha transhipment station, he argued, will help reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission among transit cargo truck drivers.

“The drop in the journey by about 600km will also cut down on accidents and damage to roads by heavy tankers and trucks,” he added.

KRA said on Tuesday the Naivasha facility works on a one-stop centre model where all government agencies — including those from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania — will offer services to clients.

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