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Taita Taveta traders accuse Tanzania border officials of harassment

By Renson Mnyamwezi | Published Wed, August 17th 2016 at 00:00, Updated August 16th 2016 at 23:38 GMT +3
Taita Taveta Governor Mr John Mruttu. Taita-Taveta County cereal dealers complain they are not allowed to conduct business in the neighbouring Tanzania freely. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Kenyan traders have accused Tanzania border officials of harassing them despite the existence of the East African Common Market Protocol.

Taita-Taveta County cereal dealers complain they are not allowed to conduct business in the neighbouring country freely. “Tanzania authorities at Holili along the Kenya-Tanzania border recently ordered me to return several bags of maize I had bought from farmers in the country. I incurred heavy losses as I had to obey the order,” Charles Wachira, one of the maize dealers, protested.

“For the time being, I have stopped buying maize from Tanzania due to many trade barriers,” he said. Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Mr Wachira said traders from Tanzania were now transporting cereals to Taveta border for the local traders to buy stuff using the Kenyan currency to make huge profits.

“We used to buy maize cheaply using Tanzania currency but authorities no longer allow us to trade in the neighbouring country. Our counterparts in Tanzania instead bring maize to Taveta for lucrative business,” he said. “We do not get profit if we buy maize locally. A number of local traders have resorted to buying maize in Uganda to avoid exploitation.”

Taveta Deputy County Commissioner Henry Wafula confirmed several Kenyan businessmen had complained to his office about harassment by Tanzania authorities. “It is true that local traders have complained that they are not being allowed to buy maize in Tanzania,” said the commissioner.

Mr Wafula said he would liaise with his Tanzanian counterpart Reuben Kipuyo (Rombo DC) to address the matter. “Tanzania traders are not releasing maize to Kenyans. The standoff has occasioned maize shortages in the area,” he said.

In a recent stakeholders' meeting, Governor John Mruttu noted traders among them maize and gemstone dealers complained they were always being subjected to arbitrary arrest and theft of their goods while conducting business in Tanzania.

This is despite a joint communiqué signed by the two countries to reduce non-tariff barriers at border points a couple years ago. “We thought the signing of the agreement will bring a sigh of relief to Kenyan traders but it has become a nightmare. Tanzania authorities have ignored the agreement together with the EAC Treaty signed by the five member states,” the governor told the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MPs.

The leaders told EALA members that the current laws do not provide level ground for all the citizens and should be relooked into. “We need to have standard laws that will provide a level playing ground for all citizens of EAC member states,” said governor Mruttu.

Mr Mruttu told EALA members Nacy Kabisai, Abubakar Zein and Judith Pareno that the current laws had failed to facilitate cross border and intra-regional trade between citizens of the two countries.