12 August 2017

Ugandan Traders On Edge Over Kenya Elections Results

Photo: The East African
Kenya election jitters: Most bus companies suspended services or reducing the frequency.

Ugandan business transactions with Kenya have been held in abeyance, with most bus companies suspending services or reducing the frequency. Already, Buscar and Dreamline, which ply the Nairobi-Kampala route, have halted their services until the elections are done with.

Ugandan businessmen are hoping for a quick and peaceful resolution of the election contest so they can resume normal trade between the two countries.

Modern Coast Group, a travel company that shuttles passengers across the borders, has changed its routes, avoiding the restive Kisumu in favour of Eldoret, Hassan Waboga, operations manager said.

Ugandan police spokesperson Asan Kasingye reassured Ugandans living in Kenya of their safety.

"We have contacted our counterparts in Nairobi, and even our own people, and are confident that there is no need to evacuate Ugandans from Nairobi because they are safe," Mr Kasingye said.

In the past month, most Ugandan traders have preferred Dar es salaam port over Mombasa as the alternative route for their imports and exports.

Mombasa port, which serves Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and DR Congo, registered 11 per cent cargo growth in the first quarter of 2017.

Plan B

Most Ugandan businessmen are wary of a repeat of the 2007 violence that saw them lose goods transiting Kenya. Some traders are still awaiting compensation for the $40 million losses they incurred during that post-election flare up.

Mr Gideon Badagawa, who is executive director of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda said that this time round, Kampala has made Dar port its plan B.

"This plan B through the central corridor was an industry strategy. Yes, this route is costlier to our members by 20 per cent but is a safer bet in case violence erupts in Kenya," Mr Badagwa said.

Ugandan traders using Mombasa incur between $1,500 and $1,800 for a 20-foot container, which is less than the $2,500 Dar charges coupled with certain inefficiencies and delays.

This has not factored in the expensive transport cost, since Tanzania to Kampala is a longer distance compared to Mombasa-Kampala.

Meanwhile, Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has called for an independent audit of the Kenyan election management systems to ward off suspicion.

"Elections in the region have been very problematic. Even where it has been less problematic like Tanzania, we have seen only one party. We must have systems that check leaders. It is not about leaders just being morally right and doing what they want. Our people are captives; their mentality has become that of a slave. It has now become normal to be treated worthless," Mr Besigye said.

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