Rwanda says it is working with Tanzanian authorities to quell cross border protests by drivers who are opposing new measures introduced by Rwanda to curb the spread of New Coronavirus by blocking trucks driven by Rwandan drivers to move.
Videos of Rwandan truck drivers being attacked by groups of people inside Tanzania, said to be truck drivers, who are opposed to recent measures introduced by the Government of Rwanda aimed at stopping cross border transmission of COVID-19 by the truck drivers and their assistants, have been making rounds on social media platforms.
Under the new measures, Tanzanian truck drivers are expected to drive the trucks up to Rusumo border post where they hand them over to their Rwandan counterparts who take the goods up to their final destination.
The measure was put in place after cross border truck drivers and their assistants were increasingly testing positive of new coronavirus.
The move was protested by Tanzanian truck drivers who did not feel comfortable handing over their trucks and goods destined for Rwanda to other drivers, despite assurances by authorities and Private Sector Federation (PSF). Some of the drivers said the move would render them jobless and affect their incomes.
Addressing the situation on Tuesday, the Minister of State for Health in Charge of Primary Healthcare, Dr Tharcisse Mpunga, said that the government is aware of the situation and is working with Tanzanian authorities to find solutions.
“The government is aware of the situation. As you might know, the country has put in place measures to stop the spread of New Coronavirus. In recent days, we were seeing an increase in the number of cross border drivers, both Rwandan and foreign, who were testing positive,”
“We came up with measures to stop the cross-border transmission but without stopping goods from coming in. Some drivers were obviously not happy with the new measures which meant that they would hand over their trucks to their Rwandan counterparts who would deliver the goods at the final destination,” Dr Mpunga said.
He said drivers from neighbouring countries, particularly Tanzanians, were not happy with the new directives hence the reported protests at the border. He defended the measures saying that they are aimed at ensuring that more people don’t get infected.
The State Ministers said concerned authorities charged with trade and transport, as well as PSF, are working with their Tanzanian counterpart to find an answer to the situation, emphasizing that drivers are acting on their own, not on the orders of the Tanzanian government.
Dr. Mpunga said it is normal for drivers to feel inconvenienced by the new measures but they have to understand the importance of protecting citizens from COVID-19.
“We understand their grievances but they have been given assurances that their vehicles and goods will be safe. We have given them safe alternatives. As we speak, we have talked to transporters and business people in Tanzania who say they are not comfortable with having their trucks and goods handed over to other drivers,”
“They suggested that they send their own drivers who they trust to Rwanda to live here, who can receive their counterparts at the border and take the trucks up to their destination. We have allowed them to do that. We have already received some of the drivers in the country,” he said.
Dr. Mpunga said that regarding the decision, he says Rwanda retains the right to put in place measures to protect her citizens from the pandemic and can come up with measures to safeguard its borders without waiting for a neighboring country to do the same.
“We want to assure the public that there is no problem between the two countries, these are drivers acting in their individual capacity. We have not seen the involvement of the government. We will continue to discuss with Tanzanian authorities to find a solution to this situation,” the Minister of State said.
Rwanda imports more than 90 percent of her goods through Dar-es-Salaam port via Rusumo One Stop Border Post. The entry point has been registering many positive new coronavirus cases, including the highest number of cases recorded in a day.