Ugandan authorities have asked businesses to prepare for a “difficult week” as elections are held in Kenya, its main import route.
While there is no credible evidence that a security threat could disrupt operations in the Northern Corridor, traders are advised to take precautionary measures such as delaying imports or choosing an alternative central corridor.
Uganda also advised its citizens living and working in Kenya to be cautious as the US issued a travel advisory for those traveling to the lakeside city of Kisumu.
Read: Kenya’s Changing of the Guard: Why Neighbors Are Watching Every Move
This happened even as President Uhuru Kenyatta and his officials assured the region of a peaceful election. Even the top presidential contenders William Ruto and Raila Odinga have promised peace and concede defeat if the elections are free and fair.
At the 22nd regular meeting of East African Community Heads of State in Arusha last month, President Kenyatta said nothing bad would happen.
Home Affairs Minister Fred Matiang’i also said security mechanisms had been mobilized to protect the elections and the country.
Uganda’s Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem said he hoped the election would end peacefully, but Uganda was preparing for any eventuality, with a Plan B that included stockpiling supplies and routing shipments through Tanzania.
Uganda’s petroleum products are transported through the Northern Corridor from the Port of Mombasa.
Read: East African companies are closely watching Kenya’s polls
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the country consumes five million liters daily. Kampala’s proposal to divert cargo to Dar es Salaam therefore raised fears of supply shortages. The Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) says it expects at least 4,000 transit cargo containers to pass through Mombasa during election week, meaning their safe passage depends on how the elections go and how people react to the results.
“Cargo forwarding to other ports can only be done at the port of origin. We have already instructed the shipping lines to deliver cargo in Mombasa,” said Jemba Kanakulya Mulondo, Kacita board member responsible for safety and environment. “That is why we are asking for security. Kenya should provide armed escort for goods destined for Uganda during voting week.
2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya disrupted Northern Corridor operations, causing huge losses to Rwandan and Ugandan companies that are still seeking compensation.
Read: Northern Corridor states ‘watching Kenyan elections’
The largest user
“Despite the fact that the courts have ordered Kenya to pay us 47 million. USD compensation, we were never paid. This is why we are asking for guarantees,” said Mr Mulondo.
Read: Traders threaten to boycott Kenyan port if compensation not paid
Ugandan traders are also asking the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to waive tariffs and charges as they expect port activity to decline.
KPA data shows that Uganda is the largest user of the Port of Mombasa, accounting for 85 percent of the port. transit cargo. “KPA collects handling fees of $700 for a 40-foot container and $600 for a 20-foot transit load after nine days. This should be abandoned,” he added.
John Bosco Kalisa, CEO of the East African Business Council, said: “The business community hopes that Kenya will have a smooth transition and avoid what happened in 2007.”
“There is no need to worry about the Kenyan elections. The country is resilient and hungry for trade with its neighbors and we look forward to a smooth transition,” said Kenya Private Sector Alliance Chairman Jas Bedi.
Kenya and Tanzania are two EAC partner states that hold elections every five years that teach an important lesson about democracy in the region.
KPA acting CEO John Mwangemi has assured the business community that they have put measures in place to ensure business continuity during and after the elections.
“We have engaged with our customers in transit countries in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and assured them that we are ready to provide uninterrupted services,” Mwangemi said.
“Because until August 13 With over 30 ships scheduled to dock at Mombasa port, this shows that they have confidence in our security and we have made sure that all staff are available 24 hours a day.
Additional reporting by Anthony Kitim and Luke Anami