One-Stop Border Post: The Need for Public Awareness

A ray of hope has emerged for the people of Moyale by its inclusion in the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSET). Situated approximately 780 kms north of Nairobi and 775 kms south of Addis Ababa, Moyale has become part of LAPSET as an important border crossing joining two of the region’s largest economies, Kenya and Ethiopia.

This development has come at a time when pastoralism is under threat. Although it is still the dominant mode of livelihood, the pastoralist way of life is under great stress due to weak governance structures, poor land and resource management, economic marginalisation of pastoralist communities and climate change. As a result, many communities living along the Ethiopia-Kenya border are gradually shifting to cross-border trade and business as an alternative livelihood, and the LAPSET project would give them a boost.

As part of LAPSET—and as a result of good neighbourly relations between Kenya and Ethiopia—an integrated border management unit, popularly known as One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) was launched in December 2020. Through this initiative, the Ethiopia Customs Commission, Kenya Revenue Authority and Border Management Secretariat, the border regulatory agencies of the two countries, and TradeMark East Africa, would facilitate and expedite crossborder movement of goods and people. If it remains true to the founding spirit, the OSBP could turn the dream of Moyale becoming the “Dubai of Africa” into a reality, where people will come from all over to buy goods and take them to other countries.

This project is funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) in support of a bilateral 2011a agreement between Kenya and Ethiopia to enhance crossborder business. An ADB statement calls it “a great milestone programme... complemented by other cross-border programmes funded by the United Nations in liaison with Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), designed to address human security concerns of the border community and will contribute to sustainable peace and socioeconomic transformation.”

Whilst the Moyale OSBP is now officially open, after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated it in June 2021, the border post has yet to be fully operational and remains far from starting to contribute to its original intention of promoting socio-economic empowerment of the community. According to border officials, OSBP is a work in progress, and soon everything will be in place.

However, there is an urgent need to make the general public in the area aware of the OSBP’s benefits and utility. Little is known about its purpose and function. Residents on both sides of Moyale town are in ‘total darkness’ with regard to its operation and are shying away from using the OSBP. Thus, they end up suffering at the hands of imposters pretending to be government officials operating along the ungazetted, informal crossing points.

Moreover, small-scale retailers and hawkers whose trade goods are far below the custom tariff threshold, still opt to use illegal feeder routes which makes them susceptible to punitive legal action by officials from Ethiopian and Kenyan customs departments. Often, their goods are confiscated, or at times, they are even put to jail for illegal border crossing or for passing goods through an ungazetted crossing point.

Still, many small-scale traders from this border community—most of them women and youth continue using ungazetted crossing points, putting them on a collision course with border officials and the police. Additionally, while passing such ungazetted crossing points, they are exposed to harassment, extortion and looting of trade goods by criminals who take advantage of their situation. As a result of this criminal activity, ethnic tensions also tend to rise because of a sentiment of revenge. On both sides of Moyale town a number of different ethnic groups, such as the Borana, Gabra, Garri, Burji and Sakuye, frequently engage in clashes, which are mainly planned as revenge attacks after one of their own clan members are harassed or robbed while passing through undesignated porous border routes.

To fully realise the intended purpose of the Moyale OSBP, the integrated border management unit should consider the following recommendations:

  • Establish informal crossborder committees to create awareness among the borderland communities about the importance and benefits of using OSBP, which will also help the post to become fully operational.

  • The two governments should come up with people-friendly policies to regulate and, possibly reduce, the existing custom tariffs.

  • Speed up the process of making the OSBP fully functional.

  • Improve security around the border by increasing the strength of the border patrol unit, since insecurity is the key reason undermining the OSBP’s objective of economic empowerment in border communities.



Authors, Borderland Participant