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Closure of border hits traders hard

By Ignatius Odanga | March 26th 2020

Residents of Budalang'i in Busia County have started feeling the effects of a  government order to close the border to human traffic.

Locals said they depend heavily on food brought in from Uganda, thus the travel restrictions could result in some families sleeping hungry.

“If the government is ready to distribute relief food, that will be good for us in Budalang’i," said Rael Akumu, a cereals trader who was unable to replenish her stock with grains from across the neighbouring country.

Following the order to close the border to human traffic from Port Victoria in Budalang’i to Malaba, only heavy commercial vehicles are being allowed across. On Tuesday, police chased away traders who operate in Kenya's Sofia area, which borders the country's no-man's land with Uganda.

Jane Atieno said she has been crossing the border for the last seven years to buy fruits, onions, tomatoes and vegetables in Sofia, Uganda.

"Our bread basket is Uganda. We source foodstuff from there and since the closure of the border, it has been hard for us to cross," she said.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industries Busia vice chairman Sylvanus Abungu warned that the directive will have far-reaching negative economic effects.

Mr Abungu said Kenya imports millet, maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, fish, milk, eggs and sugar from Uganda.

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Other commodities include sugarcane, charcoal, timber and cereals, which are later transported across the country.

"Informal cross-border trade is the worst hit. Busia is the gateway to markets outside the region and it is already affected. If the government orders a total lockdown, it will be worse,” he said.

James Ndirangu said he was stuck with charcoal worth Sh2 million after security officers refused to allow him to transport the fuel into Kenya on Monday. He complained that the decision to close the border had caught him unawares.

Mary Achieng' told The Standard she had been selling fish sourced from Uganda at Soko Matope for the last 15 years. When we visited her stall, she did not have any fish for sale.

"As much as I support the government for closing the border to prevent spread of the virus, the closure has affected me immensely,” said Achieng'

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