KIGALI – Rwanda President Paul Kagame has said that his country has used the closure of the border with Uganda to ensure that his country becomes economically independent.
Speaking at the annual government retreat at the RDF Combat Training Centre at Gabiro, in Gatsibo district on Sunday, Mr Kagame took a swipe at Ugandan leaders, whom he said thought that Rwanda would suffer more with the border closure.
“They wrongly believed that within two months, hunger will force the Rwandans to come begging and apologizing. We know Ugandan leaders very well and they also know us. They know what we are capable of, just as we do too,” he said.
Rwanda closed its border with Uganda at Gatuna in February 2019, accusing Kampala of harbouring dissidents intent on overthrowing the government in Kigali. Rwanda also accused Uganda of arbitrarily arresting its citizens on trumped-charges.
But on Sunday, Mr Kagame said before the border closure, most Rwandans in the border areas depended on services on the Ugandan side, which is no longer the case. He added that during this period, his government has expanded social services to all inaccessible border regions and the private sector also made more money from expanding their market.
“This conflict with our neighbor in north Uganda actually made you wake up. Health centers got to borders, schools got there, private sector increased sales away from just towns. The economy grew during that period of crisis more than ever before, and will continue this year,” he told his ministers and senior government officials at the retreat.
According to the Rwanda government data, in the first quarter of 2019, the economy grew by up to 12%. On an annual basis, it is growing by more than 8%. For the coming months, Mr Kagame said it could expand by as much as 10%.
“Uganda’s economy lost between $200m to 300m of exports to Rwanda, and that money remained here. Why would you send money out as if you don’t need it here?” Mr Kagame added.