The New Times (Kigali)

Kenya Removes Roadblocks to Ease Movement of Goods

Rwandan truck drivers have welcomed the new move by the Kenyan government to remove police roadblocks between the coastal port city of Mombasa and Malaba, near the Ugandan border.

Speaking in Kigali on Friday, Michael Kamau, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure said his country had removed the roadblocks to reduce non-tariff barriers along the Northern Corridor.

"Of course this comes as an advantage to us in a way that we shall see a reduction on time spent on the road while driving by the truckers and also on corruption," said Theodore Murenzi, president of Rwanda Truck Drivers Association.

25 police check points, roadblocks:

According to Kamau, it is now up to Rwanda and Uganda to do the same to allow free movement of cargo along the corridor.

"As I speak now, there is not a single police roadblock between Mombasa and Malaba. That is now history," Kamau told journalists during the official launch of Kenya Port's Authority liaison office in Kigali.

The dismantling of the most cumbersome non-tariff barrier on the route came shortly after the recent meeting between President Paul Kagame and his counterparts Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in Kampala.

The three Presidents issued some orders that are now being implemented.

Past studies have revealed that there were over 25 police check points, 15 roadblocks and 13 weighbridges along the Northern Corridor-with seven weighbridges between Mombasa and Malaba alone.

Yet the officers manning the roadblocks, check point and weighbridges reduced them to avenues for extorting money from truck drivers and causing unnecessary delays.

According to the 2007 assessment study on corruption along the Northern Corridor transit points by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the average bribe paid per transaction to a policeman or a customs official in Kenya and Tanzania is $30 (about Frw18, 000). In Uganda, it is between $100-150 (Frw60, 000-Rwf90, 000) per consignment of goods. The cumulative cost of bribes and delays to businesses in the region is staggering.

According to Donat Bagula Mugangu, from the Transit Transport Co-ordination Authority of the Northern Corridor, businesses in the region lose $800 per day per truck due to delays alone.

On the other hand, governments lose $57,730 in tax revenue to corruption for every 100 transactions.

Clearing eased:

Kenya has also taken measures to streamline operations at the Port of Mombasa.

For example, authorised clearing and forwarding service companies and commercial banks have been ordered to operate on a 24-hour basis or have their licences revoked.

This means that importers will no longer have to wait for the next day to pay their fees.

According to Kamau, only two modernised weighbridges will remain at Mariakani and Athi River. Moreover trucks weighed at Mariakani with seals intact will be allowed to proceed to Malaba without further inspection at police roadblocks or another weighbridge.

Kenya has also a 5 per cent overloading allowance, Kamau said.

There has been massive investment in the expansion of facilities at the port aimed at easing congestion as well as making clearing of goods faster.

According to KPA managing director, Gichiri Ndua, KPA has completed dredging the channel to bigger vessels to dock at the port.

He said that KPA has also acquired 27 new terminal tractors to enhance container yard operations.

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