Rwanda's Minister Tells Nationals Not to Travel to Uganda

Rwanda's State minister for East African Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe yesterday insisted that Rwandans were still strongly advised not to travel to Uganda even after presidents Museveni and Paul Kagame agreed on Wednesday to end the tension.

In an interview with Daily Monitor, Mr Nduhungirehe said Rwandans should not travel to Uganda "until all Rwandans" allegedly under the arrest in Uganda are released.

"What we request is the release of all Rwandans who are illegally detained. If they are released, we shall lift the travel advisory. But for now, we still strongly advise Rwandans not travel to Uganda," he said.

Presidents Museveni and Kagame signed a memorandum of understanding [MoU] in Angolan capital Luanda to implement seven points, including free movement of goods and persons across borders.

In February, Rwanda closed its border and blocked Ugandan cargo trucks. It also stopped its nationals from crossing into Uganda over allegations that they were being harassed and arrested illegally by Ugandan security agencies.

Uganda has dismissed the allegations and maintains that the country welcomes law abiding foreign nationals.

In July, 40 Rwandans were arrested from a church in Kibuye, a Kampala suburb, in a joint operation by the military and police.

Under the same MoU, the two leaders also agreed to respect the sovereignty of their states and of the neighbouring countries. They also agreed to stop arrest of nationals in either country.

Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Patrick Mugoya said it was still early to comment on the MoU.

When asked when Rwanda would reopen the border at Gatuna to allow free movement of goods and persons as stipulated in the MoU, he said:

"The border was never closed. We cannot reopen the border that was never closed."

"We will wait to hear from our Customs officials if persons and goods are now crossing the border freely," Mr Mugoya.

President Museveni was expected to return from Angola yesterday.

Rwanda and Uganda are also supposed to form an ad hoc commission composed of intelligence chiefs and ministers of internal affairs to oversee the implementation of the seven points in the MoU.

Mr Kagame and Mr Museveni also agreed to refrain from actions such as training of armed Opposition groups to distabilise each other's country.

Rwanda has accused Uganda of supporting its dissidents while Uganda accuses Rwandan operatives of espionage.

Business at border

Meanwhile, traders at Katuna and Kyanika border posts with Rwanda have been asked to wait for the implementation of the MoU.

Rwandan ambassador to Uganda Frank Mugambage yesterday said this in a telephone interview.

The MoU is supposed to see traders resume business at the border which had suffered losses because of the closure.

The Katuna Town Council Mayor in Kabale District, Mr Nelson Nshangabasheija, said he monitored the Katuna/Gatuna border posts from 7am to 3pm and no Rwandan national was allowed to cross into Uganda.

He added that only a few buses, small cars and some tourists' vehicle were seen crossing the border.

The Kisoro District chairperson, Mr Abel Bizimana, congratulated the Rwandan and Ugandan presidents for agreeing to sign an MOU to end the standoff but faulted the East African Community for failure to intervene immediately.

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