KIGALI – Rwandans should desist from travelling to Uganda because of safety concerns, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Government spokesperson has said.
Dr. Richard Sezibera was speaking Friday, March 1, to The New Times at his office in Kigali.
“We have advised Rwandans not to go to Uganda because we cannot guarantee their security in Uganda,” Mr. Sezibera said.
According to the daily, the issue of security of Rwandans in Uganda “has been longstanding and so we are strongly advising those who do not have necessary business in Uganda not to (go there) until we can sort out this problem.”
He added: “We’ve seen incidents in the past, even yesterday we were seeing people being arrested in Kisoro, (and) in Mbarara. We don’t understand what’s happening.”
He further said: “Rwandans have been harassed there, they are imprisoned with no consular access. Some have been deported,” adding that Rwandan authorities have raised these concerns with their Ugandan counterparts in vain.
Rwanda’s main complaints
He outlined Kigali’s three main complaints with Kampala, saying: “The first, and most important, is that Rwandans are arrested, tortured, harassed in Uganda; this is an issue we have raised with Uganda many times at different levels. Those that are not arrested, harassed, and detained are deported for reasons which we don’t understand.”
Kigali says that Ugandan authorities have arrested more than 40 Rwandan citizens, and deported or denied entry to more than 800 others since January 2018, The New Times writes.
The second challenge also raised with the Government of Uganda, Mr. Sezibera said “is that there are armed groups, individuals who head armed groups that are opposed to the Government of Rwanda, that have a violent agenda towards Rwanda who operate in Uganda”; he named RNC and FDLR among these groups.
The third problem, he said, is related to the free movement of Rwandan goods across Ugandan territory.
“Rwanda is landlocked, our access in through the port of Mombasa is through Uganda, but we have had cases,” the paper quotes the minister.
Borders still open
However, Mr. Sezibera denied reports that Rwanda had closed her borders with Uganda, saying that both Kagitumba and Cyanika border posts were operating normally, while travelers have experienced difficulties at Gatuna border as a result of ongoing works there.
However, Uganda still maintains her borders with Rwanda are not operating normally; but government has called for calm, saying the Rwandan authorities were being engaged for an amicable solution.
The minister said that the challenges emanating from the Ugandan side amount to a breach of the common market and single customs territory protocols, signed under the East African Community.
He emphasised that, for Rwanda, “peace and security for Rwandans is paramount with or without regional integration.”
The paper further says that when the minister was asked whether Uganda has ever presented any grievances to Rwanda, Mr. Sezibera said: “I am not aware of any.”