PRETORIA Landlocked Uganda is worried about the chances of violence in elections next year in neighboring Kenya and is taking steps to ensure its trade is not disrupted as it was during polls unrest in 2007/08, its junior foreign minister said on Friday.
"We have already set up a task force, a ministerial task force, to make strategic plans to ensure that in case there is any violence (in Kenya) we don't become hostages," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem told Reuters on a visit to Pretoria.
"We are concerned," he added. "We rely on a lot of goods to come through Mombasa, through Nairobi, and the last election caused a lot of destruction."
Disputed Kenyan elections at the end of 2007 spilled over into widespread ethnic violence lasting into 2008, in which more than 1,200 people were killed and 300,000 displaced.
The fighting also hit growth in east Africa's biggest economy and cut trade routes to landlocked Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi for weeks.
A poll last month suggested nearly a quarter of Kenyans expect trouble after the March 2012 presidential vote despite a new constitution designed to prevent a repeat of political violence based on ethnicity.
Oryem said the Ugandan government had told traders to start using alternative supply routes via Tanzania so that any problems could be identified and sorted out before the Kenyan election.
"We've started preparations already. We've already told our traders and those who import and export goods to immediately start bringing goods through alternative routes," Oryem said.
"If there are any difficulties on the routes, we can iron them out before March."
(Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)