The Kenya-Tanzania border at Isibania is turning to be a conflict zone between Kenya and Tanzania. This is one of the busiest border points between the two countries, and is located in Migori County. Residents are complaining that people from Tanzania are crossing freely into Kenya. However, Kenyans have been blocked from entering Tanzania.
The major point of conflict ensues from the fact that Tanzanians are accusing Kenyans of bringing coronavirus into their country. This is a shock to Kenyans, who believe that Tanzania is not taking seriously the covid-19 pandemic. Tanzania has been accused by its East African neighbors of not taking the necessary precautions, and downplaying the crisis.
One Migori resident narrates how their motor bikes were blocked from crossing over the Kenya-Tanzania border, while trucks are moving in freely from Tanzania with no questions asked.
As a response, the government has sent several police officers to man the border. This week, four Tanzanians were arrested for being in the country illegally. One of the arrested persons narrated how they travelled with a motor bike and were hoping to be taken to Migori town. The motor bike drivers said they could not go past Isibania town, and on alighting, the Tanzanians met police who arrested them immediately.
Migori residents are requesting the Tanzania government and especially President Magufuli to listen to their cry of securing the Kenya-Tanzania border. They want soldiers to be sent, whose work will be to block Tanzanians from crossing over.
The Migori County Government through the governor warned all residents who might be harboring people from Tanzania that they will be put on forced quarantine at their own cost.
Another resident narrated how people from Migori are crossing over to Tanzania to drink beer in pubs. Tanzania has not closed bars unlike in Kenya. It is feared that those crossing over to Tanzania are interacting with infected persons, and then bringing the disease into the country.
Migori residents are worried because in Tanzania it is business as usual, suggesting that the rate of infection could be way high. The solution they are proposing to the Kenya government is to have the Isibania border completely closed.
The government is shifting focus to the borders between the neighboring countries. At the busy Namanga border, several Tanzania drivers have tested positive for coronavirus and blocked from entering the country. Apparently not a lot of testing is happening on the other side of the border.
Presidents in the region held a virtual meeting whose agenda was how to have a coordinated approach to tackle the infection rate between countries. The Tanzania President John Magufuli did not attend the meeting.
Unlike other countries in the region, Tanzania was slow in putting up covid-19 prevention policies. By the time the government started acting, it was too late for the policies to be effective. President Magufuli who is determined to bring down the rate of infection, lamented how the country had found itself using faulty equipment, which presented inaccurate results.
Kenya has put up measure to ensure that truck drivers who cross the Kenya-Tanzania border do not infect other people in the places that they pass through. One of the measures is that the drivers are required to carry a certificate showing that they have tested negative for the virus. Mobile Labs have being set up at Namanga border.
The crisis at the border points and especially this one at Isibania is brewing up diplomatic crisis between countries, with many of the opinion that Tanzania is not cooperating enough. President Magufuli has however said that he is doing his best.
African countries have been lucky compared with countries from other parts of the world, where the rate of infection and death is much high.
A meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and President John Pombe Magufuli seems like the best way to resolve this crisis at the Kenya-Tanzania border.
By Mercy Kalahi
Also See Coronavirus Kenya Updates