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Kenya-Uganda agree on Covid-19 protocols to ease border movement

A traffic snarl-up caused by truck drivers at the Malaba border. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kenya and her neighbouring Uganda have agreed on a deal that will end months of Covi-19 protocol standoff at the border points.

This comes following a meeting of the East African Community Council of Ministers chaired by Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed.

A press dispatch from the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development said the Council has agreed that Uganda’s Ministry of Health recognizes Kenyan Covid-19 test results uploaded in the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System.

As a result, Uganda will immediately conduct rapid tests for the truck drivers which are free of charge with an aim of clearing the border backlog.

“The meeting resolved that the current EAC Protocols will be adhered to by the Partner States. EAC Health Ministers will review and guide on the 72 hours’ validity for tests and no country will unilaterally adjust the validity period,” read part of the dispatch.

According to the statement, the two countries reaffirmed that fully vaccinated drivers will have their negative results valid for 14 days.

They further agreed to have a follow-up meeting on January 14, 2022, to assess progress made to resolve the border congestion.

The meeting of the Council of Ministers was attended by ministers from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Tanzania was not involved because the said dispute was at the Busia-Malaba borders which are the main border points between Kenya and Uganda.

There has been a standoff at the two border points since the end of last year after Uganda introduced new Covid-19 Protocols.

Kenya however protested against the protocols which required travellers to Uganda to undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing at the points of entry.

“Each test costs UGX 11,000, equivalent to Sh3,600 with a validity period for the test reduced to seven (7) days as opposed to fourteen (14) days provided for in the regional Covid-19Protocols,” the dispatch read in part.

The reduction of the validity period is said to have contributed to the massive congestion at the Malaba and Busia land Borders.

Truck drivers stage protests against Uganda's Covid-19 protocols at the  Malaba border on January 6, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

As a result, the stalemate has affected regional trade and movement of persons provoking the EAC Ministry to convene a meeting in order to address the impasse.

Last week Kenyan truck drivers boycotted the new protocols in a protest that caused a 50km traffic snarl-up from Malaba to past Kanduyi in Bungoma town.

The two sides have occasionally had to deal with issues to do with trade wars.

Last month, Nairobi banned eggs from Kampala which escalated into a diplomatic row, with Uganda retaliating by restricting some of Kenya’s raw and processed agricultural products.

This is despite the fact that Uganda is Kenya’s leading export destination.

In 2020, Uganda took up the largest fraction of Kenyan exports at 11.2 per cent, or Sh72.2 billion, of the total export value, according to official data. This was an increase from 10.7 per cent, or goods valued at Sh64.1 billion in 2019.

Kenya was the second-largest export market for Uganda in 2019, with the country’s goods destined to Kenya taking up 9.38 per cent, or Sh38.4 billion, of the total export value.

However, the current tiff that started with Kenya banning the importation of chicken and chicken products to protect its farmers threatens to ruin this vibrant commercial relationship.

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