As President Kagame found out while ferrying his personal goods to Rwanda, Kenya roadblocks have turned into cash cows for the police and custom officers
Rampant police corruption on the Kenya-Uganda road has seen truck drivers pay upwards of Sh200,000 in bribes to transport goods from border crossings of the two countries to Mombasa port.
Participants at the Kenya Trade Week 2019 Conference in Nairobi heard that the money is paid to rogue policemen and customs officers manning border posts, weigh bridges and the over 50 police road blocks from Busia or Malaba to the port city.
Speaking during the forum, Africa Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Raila Odinga said the vice, which is partly to blame for the endless heavy traffic jams at the one-stop border clearing points, was crippling trade in the region.
He decried the level of corruption in the country, saying it is a major problem to the country. He estimated that the government loses more than Sh800 billion annually due to the vice.
Raila narrated how President Paul Kagame of Rwanda recently told him how he sent a emissary to Mombasa who confirmed there were more than 50 police road blocks between Busia or Malaba to Mombasa.
“It turned out that all these road blocks were toll stations at which Kagame’s aide spent $2,000 (Sh206,110) one way to Mombasa and the same back to the Kenya-Uganda border,” he said.
Raila said there is also need to deal with the endless heavy traffic jams caused by transport trucks at Kenya-Uganda one-stop border points of Busia and Malaba and Namanga at the border with Tanzania.
He said the delays threatening to “cripple trade” is caused by slow Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials who are not clearing trucks fast enough to enable cargo hit their destined markets in real time. The one-stop border posts were completed two years ago.
Raila said that during a recent tour, he found long queues of heavy cargo transport trucks destined for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, stretching more than five kilometres from the one-stop exit points.
“On inquiry, I established that the problem is slow clearance by KRA officials which has hindered truckers thereby preventing transit goods from reaching their destined markets in real time,” he told participants.
The AU envoy said the delays were hurting trade in the region, defeating the very purpose for which the one-stop crossing points were established – to ease delays and congestion.
Last week, Kenyan traders who had imported maize from Tanzania protested over prolonged delays by the KRA officials stationed at Namanga border point to clear their cargo, forcing them to wait for more than five days thereby causing huge truck pile-ups. Truck drivers say the officers complicate clearing by introducing unnecessary bureaucracy to create loopholes for them to extort money.
They allege that some of the officers deliberately cause congestion during morning hours so as to demand bribes during rush hour — mainly in the afternoon from 2pm.
The third edition of the Kenya Trade Week kicked off on Monday, under the theme “Powering Regional Integration through Trade”.
It was attended by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe and representatives from member states.
This article first appeared on K24