In Summary
  • Known as the Busia One-Stop-Border Post, the crossing cost about Sh1.2 billion, with facilitation from the Trade Mark East Africa.

  • For the Samia, the border between Kenya and Uganda cut their villages right in the middle, dividing families and clans.
  • Today, authorities demand that visitors must have at least a national identity card and a yellow fever certificate to cross.

  • Administrators allow Busia residents free movement within a 10km radius from the border point.

When Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni opened the improved border crossing at Busia in February last year, they said they were implementing their commitment to expand trade by freeing movement of people.

Known as the Busia One-Stop-Border Post, the crossing cost about Sh1.2 billion, with facilitation from the Trade Mark East Africa.

But away from the dignitaries, media, pomp and colour, the Nation spent time with border communities to get a peak on what regional integration means for them.

LIFE BEFORE

At Buyengo village, deep in Busia on the Ugandan side, 67-year-old Alfred Mang’eni tells of a story of mixed parentage and a life unhindered by borders.

Mang’eni is, technically a Ugandan resident. But he is Kenyan.

His father is a Kenyan from Luchululo village in Samia Sub-County of Busia but he bought land in Jinja, Uganda where he was born with other six siblings.

“Long time ago we could visit our relatives in Kenya without many restrictions. We used to cross via the lake using boats,” he told the Nation, as he massaged his beard.

“At the moment a lot has changed and we have to produce documents to relevant authorities. At the main Busia border [crossing], we were never issued with permits to grant us entry to Kenya or vice versa,” said Mr Mang’eni in his native Samia, a language also spoken in Funyula Constituency in Busia County.

DIVIDED FAMILIES

For the Samia, the border between Kenya and Uganda at Busia cut their villages right in the middle, dividing families and clans as colonialists went about ruling the African land.

Today, it is common for kids from one side to go to school in institutions across the boundary.

When the permits were introduced early in 80s, he said they had to check on their movements.

Locals had to adjust to the sudden restriction of being in the country for a maximum of a week for each entry.

CULTURE CHANGE

Mang’eni says they struggled with that culture change. Then they defied it. Authorities had to change tack and do what the people want: to move freely.

Today, authorities demand that visitors must have at least a national identity card and a yellow fever certificate to cross. Still, there is favourable treatment for border communities.

One is allowed to cross to either side as long as it is within 10 kilometres from the border point.

Uganda’s Busia District Resident Commissioner Hussein Matanda said administrators’ intention has always been to strengthen integration beyond border points.

“In the interest of fostering integration, we at the border have already implemented many bilateral arrangements that have enabled our people to move freely in a radius of 10km with only an identity card.

“There are so many Kenyan students schooling here in Uganda and some of our people also seek healthcare services across the border,” he said.

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