RWANDA long-haul truck drivers have expressed optimism after the Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe pledged Tanzania's commitment to removing all bottlenecks along the Central Corridor.
The Central Corridor connects Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and DR Congo to the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The drivers have persistently complained of several non-tariff barriers that include roadblocks, weighbridges, corruption and theft that have hindered free movement of labour and goods along the corridor.
"We discussed various issues and he assured us that if any Rwandan transporter faces any challenge along the way, they should report to him directly," one of the driver, Issa Mugarura said.
Mugarura, a truck driver and the vice-president of Rwanda Long Distance Drivers Union (ACPLRWA), said the meeting was aimed at addressing challenges faced by Rwandan transporters.
He is optimistic that the Tanzanian government would do something to address the problem. "Central Corridor is the shorter route but drivers were turning to the Northern Corridor because of insecurity and other trade barriers.
But since the Tanzania government has pledged to address the issues, I think we can expect improvement," Mugarura said. Dr Mwakyembe, who was in Kigali for the Central Corridor Transit Transportation Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA) meeting, said plans were underway to eliminate all trade barriers along the corridor.
In February, this year, two drivers from Burundi and another from Tanzania were stabbed to death by unknown highway robbers in Tanzania's Nzega District.
A large part of this area is a forest and, according to drivers, the area has become a den of highway robbers. Goods worth millions of francs have also been recently stolen on the highway as well as at Dar port leaving traders counting losses.
Meanwhile, speaking at the regional transport ministers meeting on Thursday last week, Dr Mwakyembe announced a number of his government's initiatives to ease movement of goods along the Central Corridor as well as ensure efficiency at the port.
These include construction of three-stop inspection stations at Vigwaza, Manyoni and Nyakanazi. "We need to ensure that the corridor and the port operate efficiently. Once completed, trucks will only be stopped at selected centres," he said.
The plan, he said, is to reduce the number of days it takes for cargo trucks to move from Dar es Salaam to Kigali, from 3.5 days to 2.5. Currently, it takes about five days for cargo to reach Kigali from Mombasa port, which is accessed through Uganda.