Uganda-Rwanda border still closed two years down the road

Uganda-Rwanda border still closed two years down the road
Uganda-Rwandan police officers on a face off at Kamwezi border of Rukiga district in 2020. Courtesy Photo/Samuel Amanya

Kabale, Uganda | URN | The Uganda-Rwanda borders of Katuna and Chanika in Kabale and Kisoro districts respectively are yet to reopen two years following their closure by Rwandan President Paul Kagame on February 27, 2019.

President Kagame issued a travel advisory to his nationals against travelling to Uganda, saying their safety is not guaranteed. He accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in non-designated areas.

Mr Kagame also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially from Rwanda National Congress- RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda- FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government. 

The Rwandan authorities advised the truck drivers to use the Mirama Hill border in Ntungamo district. The border closure took a huge toll on truck drivers and suffocated business along the border especially Katuna and Chanika town.

This led to an increase in smuggling along the border with most Rwandan nationals crossing to Uganda through porous border points to buy food. Rwandan authorities on accusations of smuggling have shot dead at least eight people including Ugandan and Rwandan nationals.

Our reporter visited, Katuna border over the weekend to check on business since the border closure. He received a cold reception from security operatives who ordered him to vacate the border and get clearance from higher security officials since the Katuna border issue is now a sensitive international security matter.  

Asaph Atuheire Kyoojo, a taxi driver along Katuna-Kabale road told this publication that the border closure has heavily affected business. Atuheire says that taxis, which would load passengers in just minutes before the border closure now wait for about eight hours without any single passenger.

Atuheire says that before the border closure, he would pocket about Shillings 30,000 per day as profits, but now, it is hard to even get Shillings 10,000. Atuheire says that his prayer is to see the border open so that business resumes.

Gilbert Byahuhanga, a businessman says the border closure saw many people vacating Katuna, which led to the total collapse of business. Byaruhanga says that before the border closure, he would earn about Shillings 50,000 per day, which is now impossible.

Byaruhanga says that residents have lost hope that the border will reopen anytime soon since the talks between President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame since not to have yielded any results.

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Eric Sunday, Town clerk Katuna town council says that they have lost over Shillings 400 million in revenue following the border closure in form of trading licenses, parking fees and weekly market dues among others.

He the town council has failed to implement projects of water extension and provision of furniture to government schools because of the revenue collection shortfall.

Erasmus Sanyu, the Chanika Town Council LC 3 chairperson, says the Uganda-Rwanda borders closure has cost them about Shillings 40 million in revenue. Sanyu says the revenue collection from tenders and street parking collapsed completely since the border is dry in terms of business.

On July 30, 2019, President Museveni told journalists at Kabale State Lodge that they are discussing the impasse with his Rwandan counterpart.

However, to date, the negotiations being mediated by Angolan President, João Lourenço and his Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] counterpart, Félix Tshisekedi are yet to bear positive results.