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Charcoal traders accuse police of extortion and harassment

By Ignatius Odanga | Published Thu, April 12th 2018 at 00:00, Updated April 11th 2018 at 21:28 GMT +3
Bags of charcoal from Southern Sudan ready to be transported to other towns. [Photo by Ignatius Odanga/Standard]

Charcoal traders at the Busia border yesterday protested against what they termed as police harassment and extortion.

The traders claimed they were being made to bribe police officers manning roadblocks despite paying taxes and being cleared by the Kenya Revenue Authority to import the commodity from Gulu in southern Sudan through Uganda.

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"We have to dig deeper into our pockets to pay police officers while transporting charcoal from Busia to Nairobi," claimed Douglas Irungu, one of the traders.

Irungu said the police were taking advantage of the logging ban to harass them. He claimed that he was spending Sh50, 000 on bribes along the highway to Nairobi.

Irungu said he paid Sh64 to the Customs Department for a sack of charcoal.

Another trader, Benson Ng'ang'a, said the office of the county forest director had refused to grant him a permit to allow him to transport charcoal unhampered.

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Ng'ang'a said without the document, traders were easy targets for harassment and extortion by police.

Rose Nduku said her driver and turnboy were arrested recently in Eldoret for not having a movement permit.

“A police officer called me asking for bond of Sh400, 000, which I did not have. They were taken to court. Afterwards I received a call from the same officer asking for bond of Sh200, 000.

“I told them the worth of the charcoal they had seized was not equivalent to the money they were asking for. They are now asking me to send Sh40, 000 so that the two can be released.”

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The head of conservancy in the western region, John Wachihi, said he was aware of the traders' requests and added that it was difficult for his office to issue movement permits because of the 90-day logging ban imposed by the Government.

"I am going take the letter to the chief conservator who will decide whether they will be issued with movement permits or not,” he said.

The Busia police boss, Masai Makau, said he was not aware of the extortion claims. He urged traders who had been harassed to contact his office.