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Trucks pile up at Malaba border amid clearance hitches

 Trucks and trailers in a traffic snarl-up that stretched from Kanduyi in Bungoma County all the way to the Malaba border in Busia County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Drivers stranded in a 15-kilometre traffic snarl-up heading to Uganda have blamed the one-stop border authority for delays in clearance.

Speaking at Malaba, the border town between Kenya and Uganda, the drivers whose trucks stretched from Kocholia to Malaba, feared that the digitised operations were prone to errors which would take long to rectify.

"I was in Kocholia, Busia at 1am (Monday) but I am yet to get to Uganda. The worst bit is that no one is telling me or my colleagues when things will straighten up," said driver Kavunza Ngome.

Ngome, who left Mombasa on Friday for Uganda, said the snarl-up exposed them to health risks as there was no place they could take a shower or relieve themselves in the rural county.

John Ndungu, another driver, said he usually spends between three and four days from Mombasa to Kampala and back but the clearance mess would cost him more time on the road.

Crossing point

"I have been told that the customs scanner has a problem but I haven't confirmed yet until I get to the crossing point. But I won't be surprised if it turns out to be true. That has been the case for half the time there is a snarl-up at this border point," said Ndungu.

He regretted that the non-tariff barrier cut in on business across the border and caused drivers mental anguish.

Another driver Felix Koskei said the slow clearance was turning into a corruption avenue. "I have been in the jam for 12 hours but noticed that trailers ferrying petroleum are jumping the queue after greasing the palms of customs officers," he claimed. "The rest of us have to wait until the scanner is rectified to work at optimum speed."

As the drivers and their turn boys complained, hawkers who sold food and essentials like toothpaste, toothbrush and undergarments to them were all smiles. They could be seen moving from truck to truck along the 10-km stretch selling the wares.

Aquilino Mwithalie the Malaba Border Station deputy manager attributed the delay to a breakdown of a scanner owned by the Uganda Revenue Authority.

He said the breakdown was for an hour, enough to translate to the up to 12 hours of waiting witnessed. "I am reliably informed the problem has been sorted out and the traffic is moving," he said.

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