Kenya's violence chokes flow of goods to the region
Security concerns are preventing fuel and other goods from leaving a key port.
Looking out his office window at Kenya's largest port, Mombasa, Wilson Rading counted seven ships waiting to unload. For the director of DFS Express Lines, a small freight logistics company, it was like watching his money sink to the bottom of the harbor.Skip to next paragraph
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Mombasa is the largest port between South Africa and Egypt and an essential gateway for goods to Kenya and growing inland economies like Uganda, Rwanda, southern Sudan, and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But the ethnic violence that killed more than 600 people and displaced more than 250,000 in the wake of Kenya's disputed Dec. 27 presidential election has caused a massive buildup in the harbor.
Now, security concerns are delaying the delivery of cargo and fuel across the region, leading to shortages, price hikes, and angry consumers.
In the latest high-level bid to ease tensions, former UN chief Kofi Annan arrived Wednesday to try to end the standoff between President Mwai Kibaki and populist opposition candidate Raila Odinga – who claims that Mr. Kibaki stole the election. As Mr. Annan began his mission, however, mourners who attended a mass funeral in Nairobi for victims of the postelection violence found themselves running from tear gas as the event ended in clashes between police and stone-throwing youths.
Mombasa has seen some protests, especially in its large Muslim community, where Mr. Odinga's opposition party enjoys almost unanimous support. In western Kenya, gangs blocked roads where they could harass or rob truckers, which has slowed delivery of goods. While that situation appears to have improved, the ongoing threat of mass demonstrations has truckers nervous, especially about the roads to western Kenya and neighboring countries like Uganda.
Last week, a driver for a construction company punctured a tire and was attacked by thugs wielding machetes. Many trucks now require police escorts, which can cause further delays and rising shipping costs. As a security measure, says Benson Wasera, who works in importing for Kenfreight, his company is using only its own trucks instead of contracting out.
Rail was another transport option, but last week, protesters in Nairobi's Kibera slum looted a train bound for Uganda and ripped up sections of the track, disrupting the line. "Here, everything is a problem," says Capt. Fiorenzo Castellano, owner's representative in Mombasa for the Swiss shipping giant MSC.