The government’s move to allow traders to import duty free maize to avert a looming shortage has been slowed down by delays at the Taveta one-stop border post.
Maize traders importing the produce from Tanzania are stuck at the post along the Taveta-Holili border due to what they term as delays occasioned by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officers.
The traders said their trucks, ferrying tonnes of maize, have been stuck at the border for one week due to the extended delays by rogue KRA officers.
On Sunday, the traders protested outside the KRA offices, demanding the transfer of one officer whom they alleged has been frustrating the clearance of their cargo.
Operations have been paralysed at the border point as hundreds of trucks carrying assorted goods including agricultural produce are stuck.
Last month, the government said it will now allow millers and traders to import 12 million bags of maize in a bid to cushion Kenyans against high maize prices.
The traders said although the government had directed relevant agencies to expedite approvals in order to avert the maize crisis, they have been frustrated while doing cross-border business through the Taveta-Holili border.
The border is a major crossing point to northern Tanzania.
The traders accused an officer based at the KRA offices of demanding bribes from them for their goods to be cleared on time.
One of the traders, Francis Gerison, said they will not agree to be served by the said officer.
"We have been complaining about this facility especially the KRA department but there are no changes. Enough is enough," said Mr Gerison.
Traders said they incur big losses at the key entry point for goods from Tanzania and accused officers of taking their time to clear their consignments.
The East African Community introduced one-stop border points along its borders to expedite the movement of goods and also to reduce transport costs and ease cross-border trade between its members.
The irate traders complained that the harassment by the officers is frustrating the government’s move to ease operations at all border points.
"The commitment of our governments is very high and for the Kenyan officials to pull us back is an issue that our government should look at by resolving it immediately,” said Mr Gerison.
Another trader, Christopher Kiiru, said he had incurred huge losses due to the ongoing delay.
Oranges and onions that were meant to be sold at various markets in the Coast region are feared to have started rotting due to the standoff.
"The officers were posted here to serve us. But this facility is not serving its intended purpose," Mr Kiiru said.
They said the officers give unnecessary conditions despite the traders complying with all government regulations.
"We are following all regulations required by the government but the officer is just out to frustrate us. We cannot do business in peace because of unnecessary delays and harassment," said another trader, Salome Wambua.
Taveta Sub-County Police Commander Lawrence Marwa moved in to calm the protesting traders.
Mr Marwa said the government will address all the grievances raised by the traders.
"I request you to disperse. Your issues have been noted. This is a protected area so you are not allowed to disrupt its operations," he said.
Efforts to speak to the KRA officials at the border post were futile as they were not available for comment.