Eassi boss wants border points opened
By Felix Oketcho
Sheila Kawamara the Executive Director of Eastern Africa Sunregional Initiative (EASSI) has asked government to open up borders for business despite public fear of covid pandemic.
She argues that this offer Women Cross Border Traders opportunity to conduct business to support their families.
Eassi is working together with Trademark East Africa (TMEA) and Global Affairs Canada is to Make Trade Work for Women at border points.
“So you will understand why I’m really infuriated at Government’s continued closure of the borders and restriction of public transport there. The excuse given is these places are rife with COVID19. Well this may be true, with the Ministry of Health updates/reports of positive tests of the truck drivers, but there is not much said about the border community infections,”Kawamara said.
She adds that at all the borders, government has only been able to control and restrict movement at the main border crossing point, leaving the small scale traders, and especially women to fall prey to extortionists, posing as security officers.
“These COVID19 crooks are raping the women traders, stealing their merchandise and some women have even died in the process,” she said.
Kawamara however says In Tororo town, women who would ordinarily have sold their goods during the day, if the border with Kenya, at Malaba was open, are trying to get people to buy their bananas, vegetables etc at night, againriskingto be assaulted as they find their way home in the night. Should COVID19 be used to antagonize a particular class of people? I imagine that most people, living at our borders are vulnerable and their voices are hardly heard by those in power.
“I feel so helpless, when the women, EASSI has worked with, for the last ten years, and who were prospering, prior to the pandemic, are now impoverished by our leaders, using the scare of COVID19 as a Non Tariff Barrier to Trade across East Africa,” she notes.
” If the President is being advised to keep the borders closed, I would like to inform him that he is misinformed because our borders are in reality open. You just need to pay your way and out. When leaving Uganda for Kenya it costs the trader 500 shillings on the Uganda side and 20 shillings on the Kenya side. Payments are made to security officers or those posing as agents of the State. So business and corruption flourishes and COVID19 continues to spread. At Elegu, the bribe is much higher, US dollars 100 to use the main border and 100,000 shillings, if you have to swim across River Oyama, “Kawamara added.
She advised Ministry of Health to advise Ugandans on how to safeguard themselves from COVID19 and let our women, mothers, sisters, and daughters carry out their trade with dignity. One can get COVID19 and survive, but how many mothers are we ready to sacrifice with this scare of the pandemic.
“These women trade for a living and majority are the family heads. While many of us live and survive in Kampala, we shouldn’t shun and neglect the lives of our brothers and sisters, living marginally and barely surviving at the borders save women’s trade,”
Other civil society members namely Julie Nabwire Sandra Nassali Norah Owaraga Kenneth Lukwago Anderson Pamela M Alochi Kertho Ruth Wangeci Allen Asiimwe Joseph Tumushabe Kamweya Tushabe Omunyaruguru Monicah Amoding Amos Wekesa support the move to open up the borders for trade.
According to president Yoweri Museveni press Secretary Don Wanyama the president will make final covid statement this Sunday on possible sectors to relax for the public to engage in normal business.