26 March 2019

Rwanda: Politics Sparked Border Blockade, Says Kagame

Kampala — President Paul Kagame has said politics is behind the Rwanda-Uganda border impasse and once again blamed Uganda for imposing non-tariff barriers that are detrimental to regional integration.

Mr Kagame was addressing delegates from more than 60 countries that were attending the African CEO Forum in Kigali yesterday.

He was responding to a question by Mr Ellen Giokos, a CNN business reporter, on whether the closure of Gatuna/Katuna border would not hamper efforts for economic integration of the East African Community.

"Mineral containers leaving Kigali to Mombasa were held in Uganda for five months... Kenyans who bought milk from Rwanda had containers held in Uganda for days until tens of thousands of litres were spoilt. Politics is behind this rather than anything else," Mr Kagame said.

He was referring to an incident last year when Ugandan authorities impounded two trucks carrying a combined 40 tonnes of tantalum and tin valued at about $750,000 (Rwf650 million), belonging to Mineral Supply Africa, while on their way to Mombasa.

The action threatened to sever the relations between both countries, with Ugandan officials claiming the trucks were transporting minerals using forged certificates.

The trucks were later cleared and allowed to continue to Mombasa for shipping, after three months.

Mr Kagame also told the delegates, who included President Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo and President of Ethiopia, Mr Sahle-Work Zewde, that Uganda was imprisoning hundreds of Rwandans and denying them services.

"We have brought this up with Uganda for the last two years and are getting nowhere," he said.

"We have three border points that connect us with Uganda and it is only one that is not working at full capacity, it is at 20, 30 per cent because of construction works, and we hope that in the next few weeks it should be working," he added.

However, Mr Kagame did not explain why his government has strongly advised Rwandans not to cross to Uganda if the only cross-border barrier at Gatuna/Katuna had the ongoing construction works there.

Background

Uganda- Rwanda conflict: It is now more than a month that Rwandans are barred by their government from crossing into Uganda via the borders and cargo trucks from Uganda have also been denied entry into Rwanda through the Katuna border. The Rwandan government issued a strong travel advisory to her citizens against entering Uganda, citing illegal arrests, torture and persecutory deportation of Rwandans by Ugandan authorities.

Rwanda has also been accusing Uganda of harbouring rebel groups seeking to overthrow Mr Kagame's government.

Uganda's response. Last week, Ugandan President Museveni wrote to Kagame denying supporting rebel groups and dissidents opposed to the Rwandan government.

"What is wrong is for Rwandan agents to try to operate behind the government of Uganda. I get a lot of stories, but I will never raise them unless I have confirmed them," Mr Museveni concluded in his letter.

Bus operators have stopped operations due to the lack of customers.

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