The Rwandan government has accused Uganda of employing “diversionary” tactics to avoid addressing Kigali’s main concerns especially the alleged mistreatment of Rwandans in Uganda and support of armed movements.
Issued by Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and widely circulated on social media platforms, the government statement followed sustained criticism of Rwanda’s decision to close the common border with Uganda.
Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa on Wednesday accused Rwanda of slapping a trade embargo on Uganda, saying “export of Ugandan goods to Rwanda have been prohibited by Rwanda authorities.”
He said “the same authorities are only allowing crossing into Rwanda those trucks carrying transit goods destined for Rwanda or transiting through Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo and other places.”
Rwanda today denied the claim, arguing that claims of instituting a “trade embargo on Uganda are as untrue as they are diversionary.”
In his statement, Kutesa said “Goods from Rwanda and Rwanda registered trucks are not being allowed to cross over from Rwanda into Uganda by the Rwanda authorities.”
Scores of traders and truck drivers separately told ChimpReports this week that their goods were not allowed into Rwanda.
Ugandan manufacturers have since urged government to look for new markets to replace Rwanda whose government has instituted new trade restrictions.
The Rwandan government today said “It is not possible to have free trade including free movement of goods if traders are killed, tortured, extorted and their property are illegally seized. These are the fundamental issues that need to be addressed.”
Kigali did not provide details of traders killed by Ugandan authorities but recently released a list of names of her citizens who were allegedly arrested and deported by Uganda’s security services.
Kigali’s statement marks a further escalation of the bad blood between the two countries.
While top sources say negotiations between both countries are being held at the “highest level”, the media statements point to worsening relations between the two neighbours.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame worked as a senior military intelligence officer in Uganda before leading rebels supported by president Museveni to remove the genocidal regime of Juvenal Habyarimana.
Museveni and Kagame fought in decisive wars that later saw the former take power in 1986.
The relationship broke down when armies of both Rwanda and Uganda fought in Kisangani, DRC, leaving scores on both sides dead.
But intense diplomatic efforts spearheaded by former Ugandan ambassadors to Rwanda Adonia Ayebare and Richard Kabonero revived the two countries’ bilateral relations.
The strong ties saw the volume of trade hit $200m.
Rwanda would later fall out with Uganda over counter accusations of espionage, support for armed rebel movements in the region and disagreements over the route of the planned Standard Gauge Railway.
Uganda accuses Kigali of creating spy cells in Uganda to destabilize the country and also masterminding assassination of dissidents and refugees, a claim Rwanda denies.
On the other hand, Rwanda accuse Uganda of helping dissident Rwandan general Kayumba Nyamwasa to recruit and train rebels to topple president Kagame, a charge Kutesa dismissed as untrue.
In today’s statement, Rwanda said Uganda is yet to address the “fate of hundreds of Rwandans, whose names are known to the Government of Uganda, who have been killed, arrested, incarcerated without consular access and tortured, nor the close to one thousand illegally deported to Rwanda in inhumane conditions.”
Kutesa said Uganda remained “committed to ensuring the free movement of persons and goods across borders” but that authorities would take measures to protect the country from criminal elements.
Nevertheless, Rwanda today appealed to Uganda to address the “presence of armed groups and terrorist organisations hostile to Rwanda, including RNC, FDLR and others, who are supported in their activities, including recruitment, by institutions and officials of the Government of Uganda.”
Kigali further observed that ordinary Rwandan citizens involved in regular business and trade activities, within the framework of the East African Community and the hampering of the free movement of goods, including perishables, to and through Uganda were being targeted.
“Rwanda’s commitment to free movement of people, including Ugandans, goods and services within the region and on the continent is unquestionable. The Government of Rwanda calls upon the Government of Uganda to address the key issues stated above and as already repeatedly communicated in bilateral settings,” the statement concluded.
President Museveni yesterday proposed that all African nationals should commit by treaty, never to use the free movement of people to send spies for instance, to other countries.
“Our party, the NRM supports the total free movement of people in Africa. However, we need to agree that governments undertake by treaty never to use the free movement of people to ever operate behind the backs of their host governments,” he said.
Museveni noted that this was once a challenge for the East African Community before it collapsed in the 1970s.
The President recounted that former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin exploited the open borders to send spies to neighboring countries.
“He used the system to send out spies. There was one (spy) who lived in the harbors in Dar es Salaam and we all knew him. Governments therefore, should never use these structures for anything other than trade,” said Museveni.