Rwanda: Uganda Frees 9 Rwandan Prisoners to Ease Tensions With Kigali

Kampala — Uganda freed nine Rwandan prisoners on Wednesday as part of efforts to ease chilly ties with its neighbour after months of border closures and the two trading accusations of spying and political meddling.

Kigali and Kampala signed a deal in August last year to improve political and economic relations, but further talks on the sticky issues in December saw them fail to agree on the wording of a final communique.

"In the context of goodwill being exhibited in an effort to normalise relations between the two countries, government of Uganda has withdrawn charges against nine Rwandese nationals... for various offences among others unlawful possession of firearms and ammunitions," Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said in a statement.

"It is the hope of the Uganda government that Rwandese authorities will reciprocate this gesture of good will", the minister added.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni were once close allies but their relations have turned deeply hostile.

Rwanda abruptly closed the border with its northern neighbour in February last year, severing a major economic land route. The country has also accused Uganda of abducting it's citizens and supporting rebels seeking to overthrow its government.

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Then in May Ugandan police accused Rwandan soldiers of entering the country and killing two men -- which Kigali denied.

In the August pact signed in Angola, Museveni and Kagame vowed to respect each other's sovereignty and refrain from acts of destabilisation or subversion in each other's territories.

In New Year Facebook and Twitter messages, Museveni promised Uganda "will do it's share of the normalisation of the relations between our two countries".

He said the two sides would meet again soon to take "decisive actions to end the tension."

Rwanda's border remains closed, blocking Ugandan goods and citizens from entering the country.

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