Tanzanian drivers reportedly staged a protest on Monday morning at a place called Benako – about 20 kilometres away from the Rwandan border of Rusumo, as a response to the relay system meant that Tanzanian drivers would swap with local drivers at the border.
Tanzanian drivers are seen in a series of videos circulating on social media blocking trucks from either side of Rwanda and Tanzania, shouting at Rwandan drivers and pelting their cargo trucks with stones.
Robert Bafakulera, the Chairperson of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) said that the protest is a result of the recent rules Rwanda put in place to manage truck drivers.
“I think it’s because Tanzanians didn’t want to comply (with the new rules) or it was very early for people to understand the system, so they found it difficult to swap their trucks to Rwandan drivers,” he said.
The latest guidelines direct truck drivers to swap trucks upon reaching the Rusumo border in Kirehe district where the government has set up a temporary customs clearing site.
This is due to the fact that recent coronavirus cases recorded in Rwanda were linked to truck drivers and their assistants, who interact with different communities.
The government made it mandatory for all truck drivers from Tanzania to be tested at borders, and those transporting cargo to deliver it to Inland Cargo Depots at Kiyanzi site in Kirehe.
Fred Seka, the President of the Federation of East Africa Freight Forwarders (FEAFFA), condemned the attacks, saying it is not based on the agreement that truck drivers in the region adopted on March 1.
“We spoke to associations of truck drivers and owners from the region and we showed them how this (the system of swapping drivers) is the only and most effective way to contain coronavirus. The attacks are against what we agreed on,” he said.
By press time, the federation had not made any formal communication with truck drivers and owners in the region about the latest incident, but Seka told this paper that he was trying to reach out to them.
“I am trying to speak to the associations and truck owners from Tanzania to cool down their drivers, because this is likely to cause damage, delays or even spread COVID-19 and complicate the social relationship of drivers from both sides,” he added.