Kiir, Ruto agree on new policies to solve traders’ woes

Kiir, Ruto agree on new policies to solve traders’ woes
The Nimule bridge the landmark between South Sudan and Ugandan sides.

President Salva Kiir and his Kenyan counterpart, William Samuel Ruto, agreed on Saturday on new trade policies to protect traders and consumers in South Sudan.

Addressing a joint press conference after holding talks for hours in Juba, President Salva Kiir rued the lapse in Kenyan policies that he said had immediate adverse effects on the South Sudanese economy.

“Almost all our imports come through the port of Mombasa, any policy change on the Kenyan side with respect to import clearance locations is often felt here in South Sudan on commodity prices,” said Kiir.

President Kiir expressed his displeasure to his Kenyan counterpart, who assuaged fears that Nairobi would reconsider the policy.

 According to Ruto, he then gave an assurance that he would remove trade barriers that have recently sparked concerns among the business communities in South Sudan. One of these decisions is the ability to clear goods at both the dry and wet ports in Mombasa.

“I can now confirm to you, the government of South Sudan, and the business community in South Sudan that the government of Kenya has now clarified our position that goods out of the port of Mombasa can be cleared either in the port of Mombasa, in Nairobi, or in Naivasha,” he said  

“There are no restrictions on your business people and your traders on where they clear their goods,” she added.

Ruto also confirmed that Kenya had realigned its position to facilitate smooth and seamless trade between the two countries.

He said they would provide the government of South Sudan with land for the construction of a dry port to facilitate trade between the two countries.

Policy undone

During his swearing-in in September, Ruto declared that all goods, including those destined for South Sudan, would be cleared at the point of entry—a move he described as the game-changer in the creation of employment at the cost.

“Thousands of jobs will be restored in Mombasa,” Ruto said.

This came after South Sudanese traders had complained of higher levies and freight charges at Nairobi’s inland container depot.

The decision to clear the goods from the Nairobi inland depot became contentious after South Sudanese traders complained that Kenyan authorities were charging higher fees, including warehouse charges.

South Sudan’s Ministry of Finance wrote to Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in June 2022 to break a stalemate over the delivery of goods to Juba via Nairobi.

South Sudanese exporters argued that passing the goods through Nairobi would raise importers’ clearance fees, which would then be passed on to consumers at higher commodity prices.

The Association of South Sudan Manufacturers (ASSM) expressed its displeasure with the cargo haulage directive in a letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industry.

Due to additional processing in Mombasa and Nairobi, the group warned that shipping costs would rise by $1,500.

During his campaign, Ruto reversed his support for the transfer of Port of Mombasa activities to Naivasha Inland Container Depot and promised that if elected, he would soon order shipments cleared from Port Mombasa.

He described the changes as a “breach of the agreement signed prior to the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).”

“I have signed a contract to return port operations to Mombasa.” This will reintroduce jobs to Mombasa. The operations were moved from Mombasa to benefit a few people, according to a June report in the Standard.

He asserted that the coast’s economy would suffer as only a few people would benefit from the port’s closure.

Freight services began in December 2017 after President Uhuru Kenyatta dedicated the upgraded Embakasi Inland Container Depot (ICD).

According to Business Daily, evacuating the port would result in a massive loss of billions of shillings.

Transporters from Kenya and Uganda openly opposed the decision, as Uganda reportedly accounts for nearly a quarter of all business at the port.

According to Business Daily, Uganda has 83.2 per cent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has 7.2 per cent, Tanzania has 3.2 per cent, and Rwanda has 2.4 per cent.

Hassan Ali Joho, the governor of Mombasa, threatened to sue the Kenyan government for transferring port services to Naivasha, calling it a slap in the face to tourism.