Security officers in West Pokot County have impounded 22 lorries which were ferrying suspected unsafe maize from Uganda to Kenya despite the government banning importation of maize from East African countries.
The government stopped maize importation from Uganda and Tanzania in March citing safety concerns and it contained high levels of aflatoxin.
The security officers seized the lorries that were trying to sneak maize in the country through non gazette border points as the lorry drivers escaped the arrest abandoning their lorries.
The security team led by West Pokot county commissioner Apollo Okello laid a racket at Kacheliba Matatu stage in Makutano town where the lorries coming from Pokot North Sub County which borders Uganda do off load the maize in the town.
Hundreds of maize traders cried foul as their lorries loaded with bags of maize were being towered to Kapenguri police station.
Some of the traders caused drama in the middle of the town as they yelled against the security officers who were guarding the lorries of the impounded maize.
Police officers were tempted to use tear gas canister to disperse the charged traders but the West Pokot county police commander urged the traders to keep calm as the security officers refrained from throwing tear gas to the crowd.
Speaking to the press Mr. Okello warned maize traders that the government had banned importation of maize and those conducting the maize business were going against the law citing that no suspect will be spared in the crackdown.
“We suspect maize from Uganda has aflatoxin which is harmful to human beings, am sending a warning to the traders to be on high alert coz we won’t spare you on this crack down,” he said.
He also warned trader’s against contravening the government directive by sneaking other commodities from Uganda to Kenya with traders found culpable to be arrested and charged before the court.
He noted that those who want to conduct any business related to Ugandan government should access the Suam border post since the West Pokot county side bordering Uganda doesn’t have a border post.
“No goods will be sneaked into the country without being checked we will be on high alert and police officers will be at the border to arrest more suspects. The lorries will be pulled to Kapenguria police station,” he said.
He said our country should not be dumping ground for sub standard goods that affect the health of the people and thus the Kenya Bureau of Standards should also be on the watch out on illegal goods.
Okello said most of the drivers ran away and only managed to arrest two drivers who are being held at Kapenguria police station before being arraigned in court.
“We requested for a breakdown to pull the lorries to Kapenguria police station, the maize will be taken to KEPHIS for inspection and if found with high content of aflotoxin will destroy the tonnes of maize,” he said,
A number of maize traders have faulted the government move on banning importation of maize from Uganda citing that Corona Virus pandemic has affected many people and thus Kenyans are facing hard economic times.
Philip Achekek chairman, maize traders West Pokot County said they have been buying maize from other parts of the country and most of the farmers in West Pokot county have been practicing maize farming.
“We are shocked with the government’s move the two countries have laws but how did maize cross over the border to Makutano town it means the security officers are the ones to be blamed for not sealing its borders,” he said.
He noted that security officers should be able to differentiate between maize coming from Uganda and maize being harvested within the country rather than arresting all the maize lorries from Pokot North sub county.
“We have been affected as maize traders, the Pokot community abandoned cattle rustling and we decided to focus on farming and business” he said.
Abraham Kibet wondered how the lorries sneaked maize in the country adding that the Kenyan police officers are corrupt and they take bribes to allow the lorries sneak maize in the country.
He lamented that the government had only focused on impounding maize while other commodities like sugar, milk, alcohol and other products from Uganda are being sold within West Pokot County.