Kenya polls: Truck drivers suspend business

Long distance drivers plying the Rwanda-Kenya route have temporarily suspended transit, citing safety concerns in the post-March 4 general elections.
Trucks parked at Magarwa. Drivers are wary of how Kenya polls could turn out.  The New Times/ J. Mbanda
Trucks parked at Magarwa. Drivers are wary of how Kenya polls could turn out. The New Times/ J. Mbanda

Long distance drivers plying the Rwanda-Kenya route have temporarily suspended transit, citing safety concerns in the post-March 4 general elections.

Kenya, which serves as the main route for most of landlocked countries in East Africa, including Rwanda, is set to go to general elections on March 4.

“I can’t risk my life and my boss’s vehicle going to Kenya. Some violent people are taking the advantage of the forthcoming elections to attack us; they are targeting the trucks with foreign number plates, especially from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and DR Congo,” Sam Kizuude, a Ugandan driver, said as he parked his truck possessing a Rwandan plate in Kigali.

Following the disputed 2007/08 Kenyan presidential elections, trucks were among the properties that were torched. Rwandan and Ugandan traders lost goods worth $47.5m for which they are yet to be compensated.

Kizuude, who normally transports goods from Mombasa to Rwanda, claimed that, last week, he was stopped on the way on the outskirts of Nairobi where his battery was stolen by villagers wielding arrows. He said drivers are not convinced of their safety.

The frustrated driver and colleagues (this paper found them lounging under their parked trucks) said they would resort to the Tanzania route in the interim period.

Rwanda mainly relies on the Northern Corridor, that also serves other countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo and South Sudan, which highlights Kenya’s significance in regional trade.

Rashid Bakali, a Tanzanian driver who transports goods to Rwanda and Burundi, said Kenya is now a “no-go zone” for transporters until the elections end peacefully.

“Even Kenyan Police are concerned, that’s why we have stopped our vehicles from going to Kenya until the elections are over. We saw what happened in 2007 and we can’t make the same mistake,” he said.

Theodore Murenzi, the secretary-general of Rwanda Long Distance Truck Drivers Union, however, mentioned that the issue of drivers not going to Kenya was an individual decision not the association’s policy.

The move is feared will cause scarcity of goods on the market, which will, in turn force prices to shoot up.

The Kenyan government has, however, ruled out a repeat of the 2007 scenario, saying security agencies are better prepared this time round. Kenya’s electoral commission has also assured of free and fair polls.

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