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Unbelievable! Govt slams Rwanda’s explanation for border closure as tension looms

Ofwono Opondo questioned the explanation by Rwanda’s Revenue Authority (RRA) that cargo trucks from Uganda were prevented from crossing the border at Katuna because of a planned upgrade of the border post. (PML PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Kampala administration has called upon authorities in Kigali, Rwanda not to prevent people from crossing the Kyanika border.

The Ugandan government spokesperson Mr. Ofwono Opondo told journalists that since Wednesday 6:00 pm, Rwandan authorities had denied entry to both private and public vehicles attempting to cross the border from Uganda.

Mr. Opondo also questioned the explanation by Rwanda’s Revenue Authority (RRA) that cargo trucks from Uganda were prevented from crossing the border at Katuna because of a planned upgrade of the border post.

‘‘If it was the construction of the road they wouldn’t have prevented their people from coming into the country,’‘Opondo argued.

Mr. Opondo corroborated reports from the border saying as of Thursday morning, Rwandan nationals were no longer being allowed to cross into Uganda.

Mr. Opondo however called for calm, saying the Rwandan authorities were being engaged for an amicable solution.

Rwanda’s explanation

The Rwandan taxman, in a letter addressed to the Commissioner for Customs at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) on Wednesday, February 27, said heavy trucks would be diverted to other border crossings.

“We are considering reducing the traffic of heavy trucks to allow completion of the OSBP infrastructure,” read, in part, the letter signed by Ms. Rosine Uwamariya, the Commissioner for Customs at RRA.

“In view of the above, Rwanda Revenue Authority would like to inform you that with effect from February 28, all heavy trucks carrying goods destined and those transiting via Gatuna shall be temporarily diverted from using Gatuna Border Post to Kagitumba/Mirama Hills border posts,” she added.

Breakdown in relations

Relations between Rwanda and Ugandan have recently become soiled by counter accusations of espionage and engaging in activities to destabilise each other.

Ugandan recently deported several top telecommunications officials including a Rwandan national, accusing them of compromising its national security.

President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly alluded to foreign agents attempting to destablise the country.

Last year, Museveni hosted his counterpart; Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and reduced the deteriorating relations to ‘a lapse in communication’.

“A number of incidents that are being commented about in the media, many would be properly addressed if only there was better communication. We have phones, we should talk more,” Mr. Museveni said.

In an exclusive interview with The East African newspaper earlier last month, Mr. Kagame accused Uganda of listening to dissidents who plan to destabilise Rwanda.

‘‘That must be resolved. Because the alternative is not something that we should even be thinking about, or entertaining,” Mr. Kagame said, adding that he is confident ‘the matter can be resolved’.

Ugandans, Rwandans react

However, the announcement followed complaints on social media of stranded citizens and truck drivers.

“Why are our goods being stopped from entering Rwanda? Our friendship still stands,” Mr. Aaron Ainomugisha posted on Twitter.

For ordinary citizens, the deteriorating diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Uganda, that has largely remained at the top, seemed to have moved to the grassroots, interrupting their lives.

Both Kampala and Kigali accuse each other of espionage.

“But this madness between Rwanda and Uganda must stop. My family from the other side has been blocked from coming to Uganda for our sister’s marriage ceremonies!,” tweeted Agather Atuhaire, before posing: “How can both be oblivious of or ignore the fact that there are people with families both sides?!”

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