Ugandan truck drivers and cyclists in Mutukula, Kakuuto and Kyotera are now buying petrol from across the border in Tanzania, where it is moderately cheaper compared to the cost at fuel stations in Uganda.
This followed the escalation of prices over the last two weeks in Kampala, as a result of measures that the government had put in place for truck drivers entering Uganda, mostly coming from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. They were required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing, even for those in possession of a negative PCR certificate issued in Kenya.
But the requirement sparked a dispute at the border causing a traffic gridlock since there was no movement at the border where truckers were demanded exemption from the tests, especially for those with a negative test result from Kenya. They argued that the cost of USD 30 or 100,000 Shillings that was needed for the test was exorbitant.
As the dispute raged, fuel prices more than doubled in some areas, while stations in Kampala were selling petrol at an average of 5,500 Shillings per litre, which was at 3700 Shillings for the better part of last year. Amidst the crisis in Uganda, stations in Tanzania maintained prices at an equivalent of 4,000 Uganda Shillings or 2,603 Tanzanian Shillings.
Ivan Ndawula, a commercial motorcyclist plying the Kakuuto-Mutukula-Kyotera route noted that the number of motorists crossing to Tanzania started increasing a week ago when they noticed that it was cheaper for them to cross the border and fuel up from Tanzania.
Apart from the bodaboda business, Ndawula and his wife own a roadside petrol stall which they have to maintain for the good of their customers. He noted that to keep their business running, they had to opt for Tanzanian petrol which they sell at 4,800 Shillings in Uganda.
Ndawula further explains that they are using shortcuts into Tanzania to avoid paying for the COVID-19 test which costs 120,000 Shillings at the Mutukula border.
Bryan Mutesasira, a truck driver, says they usually fuel the trucks from Tanzania and carry some extra fuel in jerricans on their way back to Uganda.
Border security officials told URN that most motorists and fuel dealers use ungazetted entry points to access Tanzanian fuel stations. They add that joint operations around the porous borders have been intensified to combat the smuggling of fuel and other items amid the crisis.
Kyotera District Chairman Patrick Kintu Kisekulo says, however, that Tanzanian authorities had earlier on restricted a number of Ugandans from accessing their fuel.
Unlike Malaba and Busia border entry points, the cargo trucks flow at Mutukula customs point has remained normal with at least more than 100 trucks being cleared daily, according to the Uganda Revenue Authority Officials.