Floods destroy Kitale–Lodwar–Juba highway, disrupt regional business

Wednesday May 08 2024

The Kitale - Kapenguria -Lodwar Juba highway road cut off at Lou's in West Pokot County, Kenya on April 29, 2024. PHOTO | OSCAR KAKAI | NMG


The Kitale–Lodwar–Juba highway has been completely cut-off thereby hurting the region’s economy and frustrating business between Kenya and South Sudan.

The road which was cut off road at Lous in West Pokot last Sunday following a heavy downpour is the only major highway linking Kenya and southern South Sudan and has cut off traders operating between the two countries.

Many traders use the road to transport fresh produce, an assortment of food items, and construction materials, among other goods.

The situation has stalled truck drivers and motorists for days now, with the business community operating the highway now decrying its current state and urging the Kenyan government to speed up rehabilitation. Vehicular traffic is at a standstill, on both sides of the highway.

Read: Tanzania closes major highway after floods wash away bridges

The curfew imposed in Turkana South between Lokichar and Kainuk has complicated matters leading to delays and increased costs for transportation of goods and passengers.


Loaded trucks have been parked in Makutano, Ortum, and Kainuk towns.

Many traders have resorted to using the Uganda route through Mbale, Lira-Gulu, and Kabong to South Sudan.

“It is difficult to use the Lokichoggio route during this time of heavy rainfall and you could spend up to two weeks on the way,” said Simon Tumkou, a businessman from Kapenguria.

Traders ferrying perishable goods such as tomatoes and green vegetables from Kitale and Kapenguria to Lodwar lament at incurring huge losses as their goods go bad before reaching their destination due to the poor state of roads, and especially during the rainy season.

The situation has seen a food shortage hit Turkana County, more so in the Turkwel area.

John Chege, a businessman who plies the South Sudan route says many trucks ferrying commodities are no longer doing so because it is hard to pass through Lous and Lochwa areas.

“My entire consignment of fresh food and vegetables rotted after I got stranded at Kambi Kayara over the weekend,” he said.

Read: At least 2m Kenyans in need of food assistance

Alice Nanyama who sells fresh vegetables says that Lodwar, Kakuma, and Lokichoggio markets bear the greatest brunt of losses.

“We are also at the mercy of armed bandits who take advantage of the bad road to ambush and rob road users,” she said.

John Ekai said the situation is a big blow to the region’s economy because it affects transport and trade.

“The crisis has dealt a serious blow to business, transportation of goods and passengers due to frequent delays,” he said.

Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) West Pokot County chairman Mark Lotee said the road has discouraged traders from operating markets in South Sudan.

“Turkana County depends on food from Kitale, Kapenguria, Chepareria, and Ortum towns,” he said, noting that this no longer tenable as many truckers and matatu operators have pulled out of the road.

“Several investors have either pulled out of business, while those willing to invest in Southern Sudan are hindered by the poor state of the road,” said Mr Lotee.

He urged the government to repair the road to enable Kenyans to invest and take advantage of opportunities in the neighbouring country.

“The road is an important link to the developing South Sudan, where Kenyans can invest,” he said.

Dennis Omoi, a driver who has used the road for over 20 years expressed frustration with the current state.

Read: EA braces for hunger as floods destroy farms

“I have used this road for the past 20 years to make a living. This time round things have turned upside down. We have been here for days and shall again stay at Lochwaa for a few more,” he said, noting that the curfew at Kainuk is also affecting motorists.

He urged the government to prioritise the reconstruction of the road.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has started works to provide a diversion using heavy construction equipment between Lous market and Kambi Karaya in West Pokot County.

KENHA engineers on site are evaluating the extent of the damage and have established alternative routes, diverting the road to ensure that travellers can continue their journeys while road reconstruction is ongoing.

KeNHA North Rift Regional Director, Philemon Kipkoech said their officers were also on site, managing traffic and clarified that alternate path had been provided on both sides of the road to ensure smooth movement of vehicles while repairs to the main road are ongoing.

“After the road was damaged by floods, we offered a road diversion on both sides. One side is designated for heavy commercial vehicles and the other, for smaller ones,’’ he said.

He reassured motorists that by Tuesday, the culvert will be installed, and the road expected to be open by Thursday at the latest.