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By Thursday evening, nearly everything was set for the highly anticipated summit of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
Local residents at the border town of Katuna were upbeat and expressed their expectations from the two leaders’ meeting, that is hoped to draw Uganda and Rwanda closer to normalization of their relations.
Patrick Besigye Keihwa, the Kabale LC5 Chairman, said his people want the two leaders to resolve the misunderstandings as quickly as possible.
“The people of Rwanda and Uganda have been living as brothers and sisters, trading together and intermarrying. This crisis needs to end,” he said.
Nelson Nshangabasheija, the Mayor Katuna Town Council says he wished that the summit came out with a long lasting solution to the standoff.
Since February, 2019 Rwanda put a stop on the movement of goods from Uganda, and also limited its citizens’ travel to Uganda.
In August 2019, the leaders of both countries met in Luanda, Angola where a memorandum of understand was signed and ever since, there has been slow but noticeable change of tone.
Due to security tensions in the region, Uganda’s trade surplus with neighbours fell from $932m (Shs3.4t) in 2017/2018 to only $11 million (Shs340b) in the year ended June 30.
According to the 2020/2021 Budget Framework Paper to Parliament, Uganda in 2018/2019 only exported goods worth $1.16b to her neighbours compared to $1.55b in 2017/2018.
On other hand, researcher John Campbell recently reported that Rwanda’s decision to close its border has hurt its own people more than Ugandans.
According to each country’s Consumer Price Index reports, prices in Rwanda, especially in rural areas, have risen more than in Uganda.
They have risen about 1.5 percent each month in Rwanda, totaling over seven percent since February, when the border was closed.
“In rural areas, prices have risen ten percent over that period. These rising prices have taken a toll, especially for those living in rural poverty. In contrast, food prices in Uganda have only increased by four percent and overall prices by only two percent,” said Campbell in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa programme.
Mayor Nshangabasheija says amid all these talks, the people Katuna have undergone too much suffering due to the border closure.
David Bahati, the State Minister of Finance in charge of planning while addressing residents of Katuna on Thursday, said that the Friday meeting of the two leaders is simply a Summit but not a rally.
He requested everyone to pray so that something positive comes out of it.