By Samuel Ouma | @journalist_27
A War of words has ensued between Ugandan and Rwandan authorities following the closure of Katuna-Gatuma border by Rwanda Revenue Authority.
On Wednesday, February 28, the taxman issued an order barring cargo tracks from Uganda entering Rwanda to pave the way for upgrade of the one-stop border post. The heavy vehicles were temporarily diverted to other border crossings, Kagitumba.
“Rwanda Revenue Authority would like to inform you that with effect from 28th February 2019, all heavy trucks carrying goods destined and those transiting via Gatuna shall be temporarily diverted from Using Gatuna Boarder Post to Kagitimba/Mirama Hills border posts,said Ms. Rosine Uwamariya, the Commissioner for customs.
The announcement did not go well with Ugandans. Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo reported that their vehicles have been denied entry to Rwanda, a claim that has been rubbished by Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Sezibera,
“Those who have gone through Kagitumba have crossed,” said Mr. Sezibera.
Thereafter, Ugandan government summoned Rwandan envoy to the east African country to give clarification on the standoff at the border. Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda Ms. Olive Woneka was also directed to get an explanation from Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kigali.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited Mr. Mugambage (the Ambassador) today to brief Uganda on temporary closure. We are seeking explanation,” reiterated Mr. Opondo.
Beyond the cargo trucks issue, Rwandan nationals were reportedly stopped from crossing into Uganda as passenger Service Vehicles were checked. There are claims that Rwandese are being detained and accused of being spies with no consular services provided to them.
“Rwandans are strongly advised not to travel to Uganda due to ongoing arrests, harassment, torture, incarceration, without consular access, deportation among others,” noted Minister for Foreign Affairs Oliver Nduhungirehe.
In rejoinder to mistreatment accusation, Mr. Ofwono Opondo has come clean saying that the allegations are untrue. He noted that there are those who are detained on political reason, a statement that has escalated the difference between the two neighbouring countries. Rwanda has maintained she has a tangible evidence to prove her claim.
As a result of Uganda-Rwanda border stalemate, traders are crying foul over the losses they have made. The most affected are those who deal with perishable products such as oranges, fish and mango.
Those transporting building materials especially from Kenya are also counting losses as their budget for food and accommodation is getting out of their hands.
The impasse came barely two weeks after Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame divulged that the two countries have had tensions for two years.
“It does not hurt anyone to keep on trying. What hurts is keeping quiet. And, of course, things are not improving because of that, we are not doing much. We have had discussions over this for two years, we can resolve them whether it is egos or just wishing that things should be bad,” decried President Kagame.