Standoffs as truckers reject to ferry freight via Naivasha port

Cargo at Nairobi inland depot (ICD) via Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) (photo: courtesy)

By William Madouk Garang

Road Transporters Associations have vehemently rejected a compulsory deal that requires all goods imported through the Kenyan Mombasa port and destined for South Sudan to be transported via Nairobi inland depot (ICD).

According to truckers, shifting cargo transportation from the main transit of Mombasa Port to Nairobi – Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) will hurt citizens as prices of basic commodities will climb sharply in Juba due to double handling and other costs.

In a press statement dated 23rd June, 2022, addressed to both South Sudan’s, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Kenyan, President Uhuru Kenyatta and signed by Chairman of KTA; Newton Wang’oo said the decision was a complete surprise.

“To our complete surprise and amazement, all transit cargo to South Sudan is now being forcefully railed from Mombasa to Nairobi Freight Terminals”. “The system in Kenya Ports Authority has been set such that all cargo in transit to South Sudan is automatically railed via SGR without any reference or consultation with the owner of the cargo,” partly read the statement obtained by No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper.

Mr. Wang’oo explained that they are not asking to be favored but they should be considered asserting that as importers they are not ignorant and if SGR is cheaper and better they would have haul their goods using rail but not to be forced.

“Through this arrangement, the costs of goods will increase due to double handling and other costs. The importer in South Sudan will then pass on this cost to the people of South Sudan who are the ultimate consumers. In effect the people of South Sudan will now be paying dearly to cover the SGR in Kenya,” he lamented.

He added that as road transporters in Kenya they were excluded by government in decision-making asserting that some officers abuse their role using their power to benefit specific businesses which undermine free market and choice.

“The process used to appoint these companies and their ultimate ownership is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. The public has a right to know who the beneficial owners of Nairobi Freight Terminals are so that they may be summoned to explain their relationship with some elements of the Governments of Kenya and South Sudan”.

KTA also requested urgent intervention by the Presidents of the two East African countries on this issue and let the market forces determine the mode of transport an importer wishes to use as well as urged them to consult the business communities in their countries.

Meanwhile in a separate petition dated 20th June, 2022 the Somali and Eritrean business Association in South Sudan urged the Minister of Trade and Industry, Kuol Athian Mawien to stop relocation of border-terminal.

“Both communities presented their petition calling for the stoppage of the relocation of the cargo container terminal from Mombasa to Nairobi,

“The communities note with concern the negative effects that the relocation of the cargo container terminal depot will reflect and injure the local consumers in that it will transfer additional costs,” read part of the petition signed by representative of both communities.

The two communities added that relocation has already created confusion in importation cycles adding that importers are not aware of criteria and procedures adopted.

They urged the government to take a sound decision and back-down transfer of port, total elimination of any middlemen or brokers, and to be included in any critical choice making processes.   

On 25th April, Commissioner of Customs in Juba wrote a letter to his counterpart and border control in Kenya notifying them that Naivasha port is the only terminal to cargos meant for South Sudan.

He also then proceeded to authorize five (5) agents to exclusively handle cargos, this according to Kenya Transporters Association (KTA).

Kenya Road transports body also stated they had seen a letter from ministry of Trade and Industry dated 23rd May, saying the cabinet will handle exports, imports and trade barrier issues.

The letter sought to withhold the earlier instructions by officers in South Sudan government appointing Nairobi Freight Terminal as the sole Terminal to handle South Sudan transit cargo but that letter has been ignored.

KTA said the terms and conditions used to assign the Nairobi Freight Terminal which is managed by a private company with private firm agents contracted to handle the cargos are not clear.

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