• Tanga Regional Commissioner Martine Shigela banned the entry of Kenyan rucks through Hororo border on Monday.
• Trucks heading to other countries in the south such as Malawi, Zambia, DRC Congo through Tanzania will, however, be allowed entry.
NAIROBI – In a move likely to escalate diplomatic relations, Tanzania has banned Kenyan truck drivers from entering the country with immediate effect.
Tanga Regional Commissioner Martine Shigela banned the entry of Kenyan rucks through Hororo border on Monday.
Trucks heading to other countries in the south such as Malawi, Zambia, DRC Congo through Tanzania will, however, be allowed entry.
“I have come here to order all the authorities at this border point that starting today, actually starting now as I speak, if there is a truck from Kenya carrying cargo to Tanzania, it is illegal,” Shigela said amid claps from t background.
He said Tanzanians cannot stay an the border with goods for more than a week and then they are declared coronavirus positive. He added that when he ordered health officials to test Kenyan travellers, more than 19 tested positive.
“We thus cannot allow them to come with them ‘their corona’ and bring it to our country,” he said.
On Sunday, Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu had also announced ban of Kenyan trucks from crossing the border, saying they would be offloaded at the border.
Tanzania is reacting to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement of cessation of movement into and out of Kenya’s border with them as well as Somalia to curb the spread of coronavirus.
He, however, left room for truck drivers to allow for food transport but “their drivers must undergo compulsory Covid-19 tests and be declared negative before being allowed through the border posts”.
“In the past one week, we have witnessed increased imported cases among individuals crossing into the country through our borders. These areas have become of grave concern,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta said among the positive cases registered in the week, 43 persons had crossed the borders from Somalia and Tanzania.
The cases are distributed as follows: Wajir (14), Isebania (10), Namanga (16), Lungalunga (2) and Loitokitok (1). The 43 cases, he said, represent about a quarter of the 166 confirmed infections this week.
On Monday, May 18, for instance, there were 53 truck drivers who tested positive at the various entry points at the Kenya-Tanzania border. They included 51 Tanzanians and two Burundi nationals. All were referred back to Tanzania and Burundi.
Criticising the move, Tanzania’s maverick President Pombe Magufuli on Sunday said it was misplaced as closing borders would affect the economy and block transport of food between states.
Magufuli has been criticised for his approach in handling of the pandemic, pushing for traditional instead of scientific measures recommended by WHO. He even claimed Covid-19 testing kits were defective.
He has thrice skipped an EAC heads of state and government meeting on Covid-19, with country’s Foreign Affairs minister Prof Palamagamba Kabudi saying Magufuli failed to attend because “it was a Northern Corridor meeting”.
International Centre for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina says Kenya and Tanzania need to deescalate rising tensions to avoid impeding efforts to fight Covid-19 pandemic.
“The two countries should embrace diplomacy to resolve difference rather than blame game. Addressing Covid-19 issue transparently causing tension is for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries,” he said on Monday.