How the border crossing Rwanda-Uganda came to a standstill

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Rwanda-Uganda border

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The normally busy border crossing was largely abandoned after the feud

A diplomatic feud between Rwanda and Uganda has stopped most cross-border movements between the two countries, a situation that has had a huge impact on the daily lives of families in both countries.

A dispute between the two neighboring countries seethed in the last two years, but seems to escalate when Rwanda closed its borders on Wednesday.

Both countries have exchanged allegations about mutual interference.

Officially, the Rwandan government says the border is open, but many people trying to cross the country can not.

Who is affected?

The impact of borderline disturbances is extremely personal to local communities.

I met a young man from Uganda – Deo Hategeka – who expressed his anger and frustration that his ability to make a living had been interrupted by the border dispute.

He usually earns just over $ 5 a day and works as a taxi driver who transports passengers across the border.

Another Ugandan dealer, Bedia Nizeyimana, who runs a business on the border, says his business is in trouble.

A warning from the Rwandan government to citizens not to travel to Uganda does not mean anything to traders.

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Bedia Nizeyimana says the deal was not good

Ugandans are also reluctant to make the crossing because of the tension.

Other low-skilled workers who depend on daily wages, such as carriers, foreign exchange traders and Rwandan workers, are inactive.

There is also the topic of food.

Rwandans whom I met, who lived right on the border, told me they were buying basic foods like potatoes, tomatoes and fruits at the closed Cyanika border post.

Now they have to sneak through illegal channels or create new shortcuts to bypass Rwandan security officials for fear of arrest.

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Frustrated people living near the border used illegal crossings

Many also commute to Uganda to gain access to healthcare or education. These institutions report falling numbers.

A key feature of border towns are the big market days, most of which are on the Ugandan side of the border.

The activities in these markets have come to a standstill without the customers in Rwanda.

Larger companies are also affected.

Trucks carrying goods to Rwanda and other neighboring countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were either stopped at some border crossings, were delayed or had to use the much longer route via the Mirama Hills crossing.

Loud latest World Bank data from 2017Rwanda was Uganda's fifth largest export market, selling goods valued at around $ 180 million. Rwanda has now exported $ 10 million to Uganda.

The authorities in Uganda are calling for trade to return to normal.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera told the press this week that the government in Kigali is making every effort to ensure that its citizens are not faced with bottlenecks or price increases.

What is behind it?

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame are closely linked.

They helped each other to come to power through rebellions.

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AFP

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Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (R) and Rwandan President Paul Kagame (l) were close allies

President Kagame and other members of his patriotic front in Rwanda fought alongside Mr Museveni in the 1980s. In return, he supported their fight in the 1990s.

There were also strong family and business relationships between the political and security leadership of both countries.

However, they have failed over the years, including military clashes during the 1990s war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when the two countries supported rival rebel groups seeking to overthrow President Laurent Kabila.

In the past week, when the first trucks were prevented from reaching Rwanda, the Rwandan government issued a statement stating that this was due to construction on the busy border post at Katuna or Gatuna, as it is called in Rwanda, due.

But that did not explain why other crossings were affected.

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The border closure has hit other neighboring countries

It soon turned out that there were deeper grievances.

Rwanda says it has warned its nationals not to enter Uganda because some of its citizens have been arrested and in some cases tortured and then deported without consular assistance or due process.

It is said that since January 2018 more than 900 Rwandans have been deported and 106 are in custody.

Mr Sezibera has accused Uganda of supporting rebel groups who have tried to topple the government in Kigali.

What does Uganda say?

Uganda has dismissed the allegations from Rwanda as wrong.

The government has made no particular complaints against Rwanda, although there is speculation in the Ugandan press that Rwanda has been trying to infiltrate Uganda's security apparatus.

A prominent case is that of Gen Kale Kayihura, who served as Ugandan police chief for more than a decade.

He was arrested in June of last year and later charged with nine other charges, including high-ranking police officers, a Rwandan officer and a Congolese citizen who supported and supported the kidnapping and repatriation of Rwandan citizens.

All persons deny the allegations.


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There were also cases where Rwandan citizens were arrested and deported from Uganda after being accused of espionage.

One of the best-known incidents was Annie Tabura, who served as general sales and distribution manager for the telecommunications company MTN Uganda.

Ms. Tabura was arrested and deported in January after she was accused of undermining Uganda's security.

The Ugandan authorities say that all detainees or deportees have been subjected to due justice.

Rwanda's foreign minister said on Monday his country was not interested in interfering in Uganda's internal affairs.

Will it affect other countries?

At the moment, lorries from other countries can cross the border, but there are delays and possibly additional costs to reach their final destination.

On the main road that led to Rwanda, there were significantly fewer trucks and trailers. This may indicate that exporters are waiting for things to return to normal before sending more cargo towards the border.

The biggest impact for now will be on Ugandan companies that were unable to sell goods to Rwandans and Rwandans who have no access to food, education and health care in Uganda.