Over 100 lorry drivers stranded at Namanga over Covid-19 tests

Thursday June 4 2020

 

By Mussa Juma & Rosemary Mirondo @TheCitizenTZ news@tz.nationmedia.com

Arusha/Dar. Over 100 Tanzanian lorry drivers heading to Kenya are stranded at Namanga border following a dispute over their Covid-19 test results they submitted to the Kenyan authorities.

Over a week ago, the ministers of transport of Kenya and Tanzania agreed that lorry drivers wanting to cross the border between the two countries must carry out Covid-19 tests in their respective countries and present test certificates to health authorities at the border posts. The aim was to curb cross border transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The resolution, which was arrived at between Kenya’s transport minister James Macharia and his Tanzanian counterpart, Mr Isaack Kamwelwe, on May 22 was expected to ease tensions over the diplomatic row caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

But yesterday the conflict resurfaced, with Kenyan authorities refusing to recognise certificates of Tanzanian truck drivers who reported to have tested negative for Covid-19 at local laboratories in Arusha, as they sought to cross the border into Kenya.

One of the drivers, Mr Hussen Rajabu, a resident of Arusha, said, “I arrived today here only to be told that my fellow drivers have been stuck here for the past two days because they have to be re-tested for Covid-19 as a condition for entering Kenya. The drivers have refused.” The chairman of transporters in Arusha Region and Kilimanjaro Mr Locken Adolf said the authorities must settle the dispute as it is affecting business.

Longido District Commissioner Frank Mwaisumbe told The Citizen that efforts have been ongoing to try and address the matter with the Kenyan health authorities but in vain.

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Mr Mwaisumbe said the Arusha Reginal Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, intervened to try and solve the dispute by defending the authenticity of the tests but the Tanzanian truck drivers have been denied entry into Kenya until they are re-tested for Covid-19. Mr Gambo moved to assure that the lab established at Mount Meru hospital to test drivers before they travel to Kenya was working and giving reliable test results.

But Mr Mwaisumbe says, “We now believe that they [the Kenyan authorities] have a hidden agenda. Ministers of transport from the two countries agreed that the drivers should be tested in their respective countries. So, the Kenyan uthorities don’t want to accept test results from Tanzania.”

“We won’t make public the kind of response we got from Kenya but we have also decided to stop Kenyan lorry drivers from entering the country even if they possess certificates that prove they are Covid-9 negative,’’ he said.

He said that an arrangement is being made to establish a dry port at the Namanga border where Kenyans will now be picking the commodities transported by Tanzanian trucker divers who will be dropping the cargo at the borders.

The Deputy minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Godwine Mollel, told The Citizen over the phone that the government was working on the matter.

“We’ve heard about the dispute as reported in the media and we are working on it,’’ he said.