Charcoal traders operating on a buffer zone along the Kenya-Uganda border in Busia have defied a government directive to vacate the strip.
Authorities in Kenya had last month warned that their presence in the “no man’s land” continue to pose a security threat to locals.
Busia Deputy County Commissioner Fredrick Ayieko therefore ordered the traders to move out immediately.
“We will arrest any trader found on the strip tomorrow (Thursday). Any vehicle found in no man’s land will also be impounded and owners prosecuted,” said Mr Ayieko.
A spot check by the Business Daily on Tuesday revealed a buzz of activities with thousands of bags being loaded and offloaded on hundreds of trucks by loaders, a clear indication that they are here to stay.
However, the traders said they are willing to move but tasked the government to give them an alternative place to sell their charcoal.
Area legislature Godfrey Odanga backed the traders’ plea by asking the State to extend the notice as they look for a new place to operate.
“I have been informed that the government wants charcoal traders to vacate the buffer zone. If it’s a must they are moved then the state should provide an alternative place for them so that our people continue to benefit from the trade.
We know what they are doing is legal and they should not be barred from earning their daily bread from the business,” said the Matayos MP.
Charcoal, a booming business at the buffer zone that has been nicknamed Kismayu, has denied both the county and national government much sought after revenue as traders sneak sacks of charcoal from Uganda by trucks and bicycles, taking advantage of the porous border.
Logging was banned in Kenya several months ago, leading to a sharp increase in the price of charcoal.
Apart from charcoal, traders also engage in cereals, fruit vendors, mainly those selling pineapples, oranges and watermelons and food kiosks.
Peter Omondi, a charcoal trader, revealed that they are charged Sh1,000 as rent fee for space to stock the commodity.
Besides the high fees, traders have to contend with poor sanitation marked by lack of toilet facilities.
This is the second time the traders have resisted to leave the strip after illegally occupying the 35 metre by 35 metre border land.