The government has sent additional police officers to hotspots along the Northern Corridor to ensure supplies to landlocked countries are not interrupted during Monday’s elections.
Transport permanent secretary Karanja Kibicho said the officers from regular and railway police would work alongside other forces deployed by the Internal Security ministry to maintain law and order.
“The measures include surveillance of sections known to be hotspots specifically to forestall cases of railway uprooting,” Dr Kibicho said in a public notice released on Friday.
The police security surveillance team backed by 169 private guards is equipped with 19 vehicles and two helicopters for continuous monitoring of cargo between Mombasa Port and Malaba border post.
The statement came as the latest official assurance that Kenya was determined to go an extra mile to ensure the General Election does not disrupt the economies of its neighbours again.
In 2008, disputed presidential election results sparked off three months of uncertainty, violence and destruction that resulted in road blockades, cargo theft, pilferage and destruction on the Northern Corridor.
Protesters uprooted a section of the Kenya-Uganda railway line at Nairobi’s Kibera slums, limiting cargo movement to road transport. But trucks could only travel in convoys escorted by soldiers, an arrangement that Kenya Shippers Council (KSC) said affected turnaround times and led to congestion at the port as cargo remained uncollected for long periods.
In recent weeks, jittery traders from neighbouring countries — especially Uganda — have been stocking up goods with majority threatening to dump the Kenyan route for the central corridor that runs through Tanzania.
Uganda has blamed the weakening of its shilling against major world currencies on fears over possible chaotic election in Kenya. An outbreak of violence could slow down economic activity as firms run out of industrial inputs usually ordered via Mombasa Port.
Its farmers have also expressed fears that a repeat of the violence could block their tea from getting to export markets.
Similarly, Kenyan firms such as Bidco made prior arrangements with their distributors to boost stock levels on fears that goods such as cement, cooking oils, soaps and detergents manufactured by Kenyan firms could be blocked from getting to Uganda — their top market.
On Friday, the Shippers Council appealed to its members to remain alert during election and take measures to secure their businesses. The lobby also joined the government and other private sector players in calling for peace “during this period for the benefit of all.”
“To a large extent, the measures announced by the Transport ministry address our election-related security concerns because our fear was not just possible disruption but to see normalcy in the supply chain as a whole,” KSC chief executive Gilbert Langat said.
The lobby estimates that civil strife in Kenya could cost a country like Uganda — Kenya’s top destination for industrial goods and investment — Sh176 billion ($2 billion).
By George Omondi Kenya Business Daily