he Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) has written to the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) asking for an extension of the period to return empty South Sudan bound containers by 15 days.
This follows a crisis that is unfolding at the Elegu border between South Sudan and Uganda. Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) had earlier advised transporters to drop South Sudan cargo at the Uganda side of the border due to insecurity along the Nimule-Juba highway after two Kenyans drivers were killed.
“Currently there are more than 3000 trucks stuck at the Elegu border and a major humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportion is unfolding only comparable to a war situation or Covid 19 border crisis,” KIFWA chairman Roy Mwanthi wrote to KMA in a letter date 2nd September this year.
The letter further said; “Consequently, KIFWA members are set to suffer major costs from demurrages associated with the delays in cargo delivery and return of empty containers released to them by shipping lines/agencies due to this Force Majeure situation.”
On 23rd August KTA wrote to its members advising them not to risk the lives of their drivers and trucks by continuing to offer transport services to South Sudan as the country remains highly volatile.
The situation on the ground is however slowly returning to normal as trucks started moving yesterday.
For a couple of years now, insecurity between Nimule, a town on the Uganda- South Sudan Border and Juba have been so serious that some drivers have lost their lives following attacks by thugs plying along the route.
“They erect barriers across the road to extort money from drivers and a slight blunder can cost a driver or a turn-boy life” Ahmed Abubkari, a truck driver plying the route said in an interview last year.
The volume of the South Sudan cargo passing through the port of Mombasa has increased significantly despite lack of a direct road connection between the two nations.
South Sudan has in recent years emerged as a new key transit destination for Mombasa port, taking second place after Uganda, with a total traffic of 734 000 tons in 2018 up from 674,000 tons in 2017. This accounted for 7.6 percent of the transit traffic in 2018.
One of the biggest challenges that has faced South Sudan importers, however, is the crossing of two border points, between Kenya and Uganda. Ideally, it would be easy to use the Kitale-Lokichoggio road which would reduce the border crossing to one and also reduce the distance to Juba by about 400 kilometres.
Truck drivers plying the Uganda Juba route have over the years called on the heads of state of the East African community to remind South Sudan of the policy on free movement of goods, services, and people under the East African Community.
At every illegal point, truck drivers have to part with bribes, fuel, food items. Failure to do so results into torture, destruction of items among others.