Transporters have been forced to keep their trucks off the Kigali-Gatuna highway, a major trade route linking Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya’s port of Mombasa, after a landslide damaged part of the road on Monday.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure has told all heavy trucks to use Kagitumba or Cyanika routes as repair works continue. The government says it expects to complete the work in six days.
“This is an important road to our market, and that’s why we need to find a temporary bypass as soon as we can to avoid impact on the economy. Then, we shall start working on a lasting solution,” State Minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, told The Eastafrican.
Landlocked Rwanda imports mainly consumer goods and exports minerals, coffee and tea through the ports of Mombasa and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam.
The Gatuna border with Uganda is one of the busiest and lies about 88km north of the capital Kigali.
Kagitumba and Cyanika borders lie about 186km northeast and 124km northwest of Kigali respectively.
Mr Uwihanganye said a long-term solution is being considered for the Kigali-Gatuna highway including realignment of the road in Gicumbi, a transit centre along the route.
The minister said some eight families will need to be relocated and tasked the Gicumbi District officials to fast-track their relocation.
According to transporters, the disruption that will affect nearly 200 trucks that use the road daily will result in more costs including expenses in diverting to other routes.
On Tuesday, some trucks could be seen parked at the Gatuna border post.
“The goods were cleared on Monday night on the Ugandan side but was stopped on the Rwandan side. I informed the freight owner in Kigali who is yet to get back to me since returning would require incurring customs and road user costs afresh,” Dennis Kamanzi, a driver who left Mombasa last week on Saturday, told The EastAfrican.
For truck drivers like Mr Kamanzi already at the Gatuna post, to use the Kagitumba border, they will have to driving through Uganda for more than 100km.
Fred Seka, the chairman of the Rwanda’s Freight Forwarders Association, told The EastAfrican that the traders and transporters have been informed about the disruption and are likely to incur higher costs.
Heavy rains have led to floods and landslides that have wreaked havoc in parts of the western, northern regions and Kigali.
The Infrastructure ministry says about 25 national roads and more than 40 district roads have been damaged with immediate repairs expected to cost Rwf5 billion (about $5.7 million). A total of Rwf13 billion ($14.8 million) is also required to upgrade roads and bridges.