Slow Covid-19 testing at Malaba border takes toll on truck drivers

Tuesday January 18 2022

Trucks at Webuye in Bungoma County, Kenya, making their way to the Kenya-Uganda border at Malaba on January 17, 2022. PHOTO | BRIAN OJAMAA | NMG


Truck drivers on the northern corridor who had gone on strike protesting against the $30 Covid test fee imposed by the Ugandan government have expressed their frustration at the traffic snarl-up that has caused them to spend days on the road.

By Tuesday, the traffic was moving slowly. 

An official at the border side of Uganda told The EastAfrican that the machines had been slow due to poor network, which resulted in a slow process of clearing the truckers.

“Everything is moving on smoothly; we just want the drivers to be patient as the systems pick up,” he said.

The drivers lamented that even after the charge was done away with following a meeting with East African Community officials, the slow pace of Covid-19 testing and cargo clearance at the border has caused a huge jam that has subjected them to untold suffering. 

The drivers said that before the snarl-up, they would take at most one week for trips from Mombasa in Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. But now, they are taking about three weeks.


On Tuesday, the huge jam stretched for over 130 kilometres from Malaba border town to Lwandeti market in Kakamega County, and it was moving at a snail’s pace.

They said that most of them ferrying goods from Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru and Nairobi have spent miserable days and nights on the road not knowing when normalcy would return. 

Mr Rashid Warama, who is ferrying petroleum oil from Mombasa to Kampala and has spent nine days in the jam, said that he usually takes three days for the journey. He could take two weeks or more for the trip, depending on when the traffic will begin to flow smoothly, he said.  

Other truck drivers complained about the lack of facilities on the road and the danger of petroleum products along the highway in case of an accident, as many trucks are ferrying flammable products.

One driver said colleagues were relieving themselves along the road and they are forced by circumstance to bathe outside at night, urging the government to construct public toilets and bathrooms along the international highways to maintain hygiene.