Uganda will install three more weighbridges on its highways in the financial year that begins next month, highlighting the growing conflict between a desire to protect costly road infrastructure and obligations to trade partners to reduce non-tariff barriers. The revelation by state minister for Works John Byabagambi has already drawn angry reactions from the business community, who have threatened to petition the East African Court of Justice for redress.
“In Uganda there is a negative reaction towards reduction of NTBs from some government officials who don’t appreciate the current situation (working towards reduction of NTBs). If Uganda does not change its position we shall go to the East African Court,” warned Kassim Omar, a member of the board of the EAC Business Council, who doubles as a clearing and forwarding agent.
In a meeting on NTBs held in Mombasa in December last year it was agreed that the number of weighbridges along the main highways be reduced as well as road blocks on the Northern corridor from Mombasa to Kampala, Uganda through Busia.
Among the proposals made during the same meeting is that transit vehicles would be weighed twice from the Port of entry and Port of exit for Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi as Tanzania awaits a study on the establishment of the weighbridges.
There are about 36 roadblocks between Mombasa, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda and 30 between Dar -es Salaam and Rusumo border, Uganda has nine between Malaba and Katuna border points.
Mr Omar also argues that most of Uganda’s weigh bridges are manipulated and aren’t calibrated. “Otherwise why should there be variance in tonnage of the same truck on the same route. Different readings are produced by different weigh bridges for the same vehicle resulting in acrimonious relations between transporters and weigh bridge operators,” said Mr Omar, who also heads Uganda’s Non-Tariff Barriers Monitoring Committee.
The three new bridges will be installed at Magamaga 110 km from the Kenya Uganda border of Malaba, Ntungamo 100 kilometres from Katuna on the border with Rwanda and one along the new Soroti-Lira highway.
Mr Byabagambi, told The EastAfrican in an exclusive interview a fortnight ago that his ministry would install both mobile and fixed weighbridges on all highways in the country. “We have to protect our roads. Weigh bridges must be strengthened to reduce on the pressure caused by those overloaded trucks. Those who are complaining about the numerous weighbridges are the wrong characters, who should be punished,” said Byabagambi.
The minister said the weighbridges will be computerized and fixed with closed-circuit television (CCTVs) to monitor transactions.
Rwanda recently threatened to take its neighbours in the EAC to court over the continued existence of non-tariff barriers in their territories.
A study conducted by Padeco Co. Ltd and sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2009 whose findings were tabled last year shows that trucks take five days to cover the 1,100 kilometres from Mombasa to Kampala — with 19 hours being spent on crossing borders and weighbridges.
Both the business community and government officials hope, however, that the proposed EAC Vehicle Load Control Bill 2012 once passed by the East African Parliament will solicit a lasting solution.
The Bill fronts for the provision of common weighbridges at border posts and reciprocal recognition of weighing certificates issued by accredited weighing stations in neighbouring states to ease movement of goods.
It also proposes the introduction of an appraisal system based on the severity of overloading and recommends suspension of driving and transport operator licences for habitual offenders in addition to payment of fines in a cashless transaction involving use of credit and debit cards, guaranteed bank cheques or electronic transfer of funds.