As the Kenya general elections draw closer, Rwandan traders are worried about the security and safety of their cargo during and in the aftermath the March polls.
Theodore Murenzi, the executive secretary of the Rwanda Long Distance Trucks Drivers Association, said Rwandan traders needed assurance from the Kenyan government that their goods would be secure as they are being ferried from Mombasa.
"We want to know how Kenyan authorities are prepared to safeguard our goods along the Northern Corridor during and after elections," he said during a breakfast meeting organised for Rwandan traders by the Kenya Ports Authority at the Kigali Serena Hotel yesterday.
Rwandan and Ugandan traders using the Northern corridor from Mombasa lost cargo worth $47m during the 2007 post-elections violence in Kenya, something local traders fear could reoccur after March elections.
"Kenya Ports Authority should assure us of the security along the corridor or we will opt for the Southern corridor through Dar-es-Salaam port in Tanzania until after the elections," Murenzi, who is also a local businessman, added.
Mombasa is Rwanda's main exit and entry port through Uganda. The port handled over 260,238 tonnes of Rwanda-bound goods last year, up from 226,093 tonnes in the previous year. The Northern corridor is shorter compared to ferrying goods through Dar-es-Salaam, which reduces cost of doing business.
Gichiri Ndua, the Kenya Ports Authority managing director, reassured the local business community that the Kenyan government has put in place stringent security measures to ensure that business at the port and along the Northern corridor is not affected by the polls.
"We have learnt from the post-2007 elections violence and would not want to repeat past mistakes," he assured traders.
The traders also urged the authority to streamline service delivery, saying delays at the port and along the corridor were hurting their businesses.
"KPA should address delays, congestion and corruption at the port to offer smooth services," John Bosco Rusagara, a Rwandan trader, said
Mombasa port experienced an increase in its cargo capacity to 19.95 million tonnes in 2011, with last year the cargo surging to 21.92 million tonnes. This led to congestion at the port and delays in cargo clearing, hence, a cost burden on business people.
Twalib Khamis, the Kenya Port Authority general manager for operations, said the port was undergoing expansion with the construction of a new berth with a 240-metre quay length at the container terminal. This will increase the total quay length to 840 metres, thus easing congestion.
Rwanda imported 247,730 tonnes of cargo through Mombasa in 2012, up from 216,306 tonnes the port handled in 2011, while exports shoot up to 12,508 tonnes from 9,787 tonnes in 2011.