Arusha. Rwanda has defended its move to bar cargo-carrying trucks from Tanzania and Uganda.
The landlocked country will continue to offload the lorries at its border-crossing posts and reload them on its trucks for the final lap.
Alternatively, the vehicles would be taken over by drivers from Rwanda as a measure against coronavirus (Covid-19) infection by drivers from the neighbouring countries.
“We need goods and services and appreciate the truck drivers. But we have to take restrictions against the virus,” said Ms Odda Gasinzigwa.
The lawmaker in the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) pleaded with the neighbouring countries to understand her country’s position on the issue.
She made the appeal during a session of Eala General Purpose Committee held via a video conference on Thursday.
The meeting was dominated by the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in scaled-down execution of a number of regional projects.
Recently, Rwanda and Uganda - both landlocked and much dependent on Tanzania and Kenya for routes to the Indian Ocean seaports - imposed restrictions on lorries bringing in goods through the latter states.
Non-citizen drivers have been sent back from Uganda upon testing Covid-19-positive while Rwanda require incoming lorries to be off-loaded at the common border or taken over by their drivers.
However, an Eala MP from Uganda, Mr Dennis Namara, faulted the East African Community (EAC) partner states for lacking a common approach on the crisis.
“It appears we do not know the magnitude of the pandemic. Truck drivers are part of our supply chain for goods throughout the region,” he said.
He criticised some partner states in the six nation bloc he accused of having not taken the Covid-19 crisis “very seriously”.
“There should be a regional approach. East Africa should emulate South Korea which has been successful to contain the spread of the virus” Mr Namara argued.
Ms Leontine Nzeyimana (Burundi) defended her country for continuing with the political rallies ahead of next month’s general elections.
“Life cannot stop due to Covid-19. We need these trucks to bring goods and take out export commodities,” she said.
The EAC Affairs minister added authorities in her country were taking mandatory measures against the pandemic even during the political rallies.
“People are routinely tested before getting into the rallies. The situation is not alarming; we have recorded eleven cases and one death,” she said.
Mr Abdullah Makame (Tanzania) said Tanzania was taking all the necessary measures against the highly-infectious pandemic, including social distancing and mandatory quarantines.