THREE days after Kenyan authorities started restricting Tanzanian truckers from crossing into their country through Namanga One Stop Border Post (OSBP) on grounds of lack of valid Covi-19 certificates, the situation has been replicated at Holili/Taveta, further frustrating drivers.
The situation is against agreements reached by ministers responsible for transport from the neighbouring countries that drivers need not test for coronavirus at the borders, given that they had tested at the country of origin and got a negative certificate for Covid-19.
In the light of this development, queues of trucks with consignments formed at the border due to the misunderstandings that prompted Tanzanian officials also to take similar action against truckers from Kenya.
The Holili/Taveta border had been designated as one of several East African Community (EAC) One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) as a means of facilitating easy movement of people and goods.
Several services are supposed to be offered under one roof, with officials from both countries cooperating, but that spirit seem to be waning away after Kenya’s trigger.
The drivers have been mired in a state of confusion as their continued stay at the border means more costs and loss of time that would have been spent on delivering goods to the intended destinations.
They would then return to their points of origin to either fetch more goods or engage in other activities, plus reuniting with family members.
In an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’ , Rombo District Commissioner Ms Agnes Hokororo attributed the ongoing situation to their Kenyan counterparts whom she said rejected Tanzania drivers’ Covid-19 test negative certifications that had been approved in Tanzania.
“Our drivers have been banned to enter Kenya by the Kenyan officials over allegedly not having valid Covid-19 negative certification from Kenya; this means they do not recognize Tanzanian Covid- 19 approved certificates.
“To the contrary, they (Kenyan officials) want their drivers to be allowed by Tanzanian officials to enter Tanzania with their country’s approved Covid-19 negative certificates; this is not fair and that’s why they (Kenyan drivers) were stuck just like the Tanzanian drivers,” she noted.
The Taveta/Holili border crossing point between Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania is located near Rombo District, Kilimanjaro Region.
Taveta is one of the key border crossing points between the two countries due to the border’s proximity to major cities.
Ms Hokororo further said that despite Tanzanian leaders respecting the agreement reached in Namanga, Arusha and the prior diplomatic gesture shown by leaders of the two countries recently, their Kenyan counterparts had not shown a willingness to respect the same.
“We care and respect good neighbourhood; we reminded our Kenyan colleagues about the agreement which was reached between our leaders in Arusha related to the issue of drivers and that we received guidance of the agreement through the Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, but they refused and stated that the instructions they had from their leaders were to allow drivers from Tanzania who had Kenyan approved Covid-19 negative certification only and not otherwise”, she said.
The situation seems to be worse at the Holili/Taveta Border side due to the fact that the border is open for services for 24 hours compared to that of Tarakea that operates during the day alone.
The dispute over the Covid-19 tests for truck drivers between the two countries arose a few months ago, prompting the Heads of State of the two EAC states to give directives to their respective subordinates to meet and resolve the dispute and that was done at a one-day meeting to resolve the issue.
On Thursday, Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Eng Atashasta Nditiye told the ‘Daily News’ that what the Kenyan side did was contrary to the agreement and could trigger another dispute.
"Our counterparts claim that they don't trust Tanzanian certificates and the laboratories, but this wasn't part of our agreement," he told this newspaper in a telephone interview on Thursday.
He was of the view that the move might reignite the dispute that had been solved recently and cause undue inconveniences.
"We learnt about these challenges facing Tanzanian truck drivers since Wednesday; what is happening is contrary to the agreement reached by the responsible ministers, they have breached the resolutions," he lamented.
On his part, Deputy Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children Dr Godwin Mollel, said he was planning to visit the border post to assess the situation next Monday.