Millions of taxes lost as illegal trade thrives at the borders
SEE ALSO :The unseen war - Part 2Just like traders along the Kenya-Ethiopia border, those in Bulahawa between Kenya and Somalia conduct business through illegal routes. It is from here that Brazilian sugar sold in some of the shops in Mandera at Sh80 per kilo, iron sheets and other construction material find their way into the local market. Ali says business in Suftu has been going on well despite the wall between Kenya and Somalia having covered a few kilometres before it stalled near Bulahawa. “Traders are now importing cement from Ethiopia because it is cheaper than the one manufactured in Kenya,” he says. Cement smuggled from Ethiopia is sold at Sh650 per 50kg bag as compared to the one transported from Nairobi that trades at Sh1,100 in Mandera. However, building contractors who want quality work prefer using locally manufactured cement. Mandera Governor Ali Roba says the border between Kenya and Somalia should be opened to stop cartels from smuggling goods. “The county is losing more than Sh1 billion per year because of the closure and this is affecting our revenue collection. Our economy depends on the close business relationship with the neighbours and the border should be opened to stop goods from entering this place through dubious means." Traders in Mandera have been depending on Somalia’s Bulahawa for goods because it gets duty free supplies from Kismayu port. The 600km distance from Mandera to Mogadishu as compared to 1,200km to Nairobi has also contributed to traders importing goods from the neighbouring country. At the Customs Border Control Point, some office buildings with bullet holes have gathered dust since the KRA and Immigration Department officers fled the area. The only vehicles visible in the compound -- whose gate has a big chain and padlock -- that operated as the entry point are two buses and a Land Rover that former Somalia President Siad Barre abandoned when his government was overthrown in 1990. KRA Deputy Commissioner Border Control and Enforcement, Col (Rtd) James Kariuki told the Saturday Standard that the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia are porous and insecure.
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