By Patrick Maina
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise, health officials are grappling with how to contain illegal entry into Kenya from neighboring countries.With new infections being linked to Tanzania and Somalia, the long and porous borders are proving to be a weak link in the fight against the virus. A Local media found a seemingly insignificant road inside Kenya’s border in the county of Migori where anybody could pass as a typical village but which, unbeknownst to many, goes all the way to Tanzania.
300 metres away from this road is the official Isebania border point which is manned by security officers whose work seemingly ends there.
According to Elias Nyaure, a resident of Isebania, “People crossing over from Tanzania give Kenya’s police officers between Ksh.50 and Ksh100 and then they’re allowed entry into Kenya.”
At Eneo Mingi, still in Migori County, a local media filmed two people on their way to Tanzania bribing police officers before continuing with their journey.
The so-called ‘panya routes’ have been used for the wrong reasons such as distorting border controls and aiding other illegal activities leaving even high-ranking individuals helpless. The advent of Covid-19 pandemic has put them on the spotlight again as new cases pop up in the county, thanks to these undocumented crossings.
“This is the greatest challenge…that we decide what is good for the people but they decide to disobey,” Migori Governor Okoth Obado said of the police officers at these border crossings.The Kenya-Tanzania border stretches to approximately 769 kilometres, but it is these illegal routes that are putting in danger the lives of those in Migori, Kajiado and Taita Taveta counties.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously raised concern over Tanzania’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic despite neighboring countries putting in restrictions; this has seen a rise in the number of cases reported in the country.Similar concerns are also being raised about Kenya’s frontier with Somalia which has so far registered more than 1000 Covid-19 cases.
In Wajir, for instance, where 9 cases have been recorded, the patients had just travelled traveled back to the country from Somalia through the Diff market. The Wajir County government now says it is moving to contain the situation with Governor Mohammed Abdi – in a statement to newsrooms – saying they had closed the Diff and Dagahley markets to prevent the spread of the virus.
Health officials are now on high alert as cases soar in some of Kenya’s neighbors, and with long and porous borders almost all around, containing the virus that respects no borders will continue to be a big challenge.