KAMPALA/KIGALI – Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa has dismissed allegations that Uganda has closed its borders with Rwanda and instead accused Kigali of imposing a trade embargo on Kampala.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Kutesa said since February 28 when Rwanda issued a travel advisory against travel of its nationals to Uganda, the latter’s border has remained open except Rwanda which he said has continued to block Ugandan goods.
“Uganda wishes to refute allegations that it closed its border with Rwanda. Since 28 February 2019 when the Government of Rwanda issued an advisory against travel of its nationals to Uganda, flow of traffic from Uganda to Rwanda has been continuing normally, as detailed below: (i) Cyanika border post: 41 transactions have been processed; (ii) Katuna border post: 85 transactions have been processed. However, this is only for light vehicles that were being allowed to cross over; and (iii) Mirama hills border post: 311 transactions have been processed,” he said in a statement.
“What is happening on the ground however is that export of Ugandan goods to Rwanda have been prohibited by Rwanda authorities. The same authorities are only allowing crossing into Rwanda those trucks carrying transit goods destined for Rwanda or transiting through Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo and other places. Goods from Rwanda and Rwanda registered trucks are not being allowed to cross over from Rwanda into Uganda by the Rwanda authorities,” he added.
The minister said Rwanda has introduced an export permit system for those that intend to export goods to Uganda.
“This is a technical and non-tariff barrier to trade, to which there has been no successful applicant. In effect, this is a trade embargo on bilateral trade with Uganda. The Uganda border posts continue to operate normally. Government is not restricting any movement of goods and people from Uganda the Rwanda. However, there have been and remain restrictions on the movement of goods and people from Rwanda destined to Uganda,” he added.
Uganda and Rwanda have been in a standoff for close to two weeks after Rwanda closed its borders over allegations of Uganda offering sanctuary to Rwandan rebels, allegations denied by Uganda.
The closure has hit businesses at the border points, with many traders complaining that they have lost goods worth millions of shillings.
Last week, Rwanda President Paul Kagame asked Uganda to stop stabilizing his country by aiding rebellion, re-echoing what his foreign affairs minister Richard Sezibira had earlier on stated.
“When I hear somebody say no one can destabilize their country, I agree. No one should actually be destabilizing that country but that country should also not be destabilizing others, I think it is a fair deal,” Mr Kagame said.
However, Mr Kutesa said Uganda loves peace and wants a stable region and therefore the assertions that it is destabilizing its neighbouring Rwanda is very wrong.
“On Rwanda there were allegations and I made a statement last week and I still stand by that statement. We cannot allow Rwanda to be disorganized by any negative forces and Rwanda is one of our neighbours and that is our position,” he said.