Kenya’s landlocked neighbours are stocking up on fuel and food to prevent the kind of disruption they suffered after being cut off from the port of Mombasa by angry rioters following a disputed election five years ago. About 200 million people in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and eastern Congo could be affected if Kenya goes through a fresh bout of fighting when it holds presidential and parliamentary elections on March 4. The port of Mombasa serves its wide hinterland with imports that include oil, clinker which is used to make cement, steel, bitumen for road construction and second-hand cars, while the main exports include tea, coffee, and horticultural products. Some 95 percent of all the cargo coming in through the port is trucked by road. Truck drivers at a weigh bridge in the small town of Athi River on the fringes of the capital Nairobi said there were already fears of violence.
“Everybody is scared about the elections, especially the foreign truck drivers. Last time some of us were attacked and goods were lost,” said Charles Mburu, 36, who has driven trucks for the last eight years.
“Our employers are not just insuring the goods and trucks, but also the drivers. You have to be certain that they will compensate you in case of an attack.”
Supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the opposition leader at the last vote, claimed he lost his bid for the Kenyan presidency after President Mwai Kibaki rigged the vote, setting off a bloodbath in which more than 1,200 people were killed and 300,000 displaced.
After the December 2007 election, machete-wielding youths blocked roads and looted trucks they had hijacked. They burnt tyres to cut the road from the port and uprooted railway lines, strangling trade to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi for weeks.