Kampala and Nairobi trade conflict: At least 300 tonnes of fish planned for shipment at the Ugandan border detained.
Due to an ongoing dispute between Kampala and Nairobi, Kenyan merchants claim they are trapped with at least 300 tonnes of fish slated for export at the Ugandan border.
Early last month, authorities from Uganda’s Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) confiscated five Kenyan trucks carrying fish bound for the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the Mpondwe border, one of three key crossings between the nation and the DRC.
Mr Hassan Ahmad, a fish exporter, stated over the weekend that he transported a truckload of salted fish from Kenya’s Lake Turkana to the Busia-Kenya fish market, but none of his clients are interested in purchasing.
“Every week, I send around 12 tonnes of fish to this market,” Mr Ahmad said. “However, for the past two weeks, I have not sent any fish to DR Congo because I am unsure about the safety of my products.”
He pondered how he would pay off the driver and owner of the vehicle he had hired.
Another dealer, Mr Hassan Omari, said that “it remains uncertain if the 300 tonnes of fish would ever be shipped.”
The fish detained last month, according to FPU, were immature and from Ugandan lakes, smuggled to Kenya, processed, and packed for export.
The fish, according to Ms Joyce Ikwaput, director of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, was caught in Lake Kyoga in central Uganda.
Mr Omari, on the other hand, is concerned that Ugandan officials would impound any fish they want to sell to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the Fisheries State Minister, Ms Hellen Adoa, said that “they will not be pressed to have the fish released.”
Uganda’s national cross-border trade chairman, Mr Godfrey Oundo Ongwabe, said Kampala should have examined charges of smuggling immature fish before impounding the fish.
“Rather than rushing to impound the fish, Uganda should have first investigated and then submitted an official report to Kenya,” he added.
He also voiced concern that if the issue is not handled, Nairobi may react by targeting Ugandan commodities supplied to Kenyans or items imported and exported via Kenyan territory.
Another fish exporter, Mr David Ogeya, claimed the impounding of the fish by one of their key trading partners violated the East African Community’s free trade convention.
“We have multiple old automobiles going into Uganda via Kenya that we have never impounded, but we’re wondering how Uganda can become involved in halting our fish in transit across its borders into another nation,” he said.
The seizure of the fish threatens to rekindle tensions between Kampala and Nairobi, after the former’s recent restriction on Ugandan items such as milk, sugar, sugarcane, eggs, and, most recently, maize grains on the grounds that they were substandard.