The Rwandan government has said the common border with Uganda will be reopened to allow movement of people and goods if arrests of its nationals in Uganda comes to an end.
Rwanda’s Junior Minister in charge of Regional Cooperation Olivier Nduhungirehe on Saturday morning said Ugandan security services continue to arrest Rwandans before dumping them at the border.
Speaking to the media at midnight after long deliberations with Ugandan representatives in Munyonyo, Nduhungirehe observed: “On the issue of border closure, we have counted, I think the figure was that since January 2018, 1,430 people are dumped at the Rwandan border.”
He added: “When we have that situation we can’t say that it promotes trade. When those people who were doing business in Uganda cannot do business because they are arrested.”
“This is a sense, a kind of border closure. So we need to first solve the issues, the causes of the situation and then I think trade and movement of people will resume between our two countries,” the Minister emphasised.
Ugandan immigration officials have in recent months dumped hundreds of Rwandans arrested in Uganda on accusations of being involved in subversive activities.
The deported Rwandans have since denied the accusations, saying they are innocent people looking for jobs or meeting relatives in Uganda.
The border was closed on the orders of President Kagame who said trade can only occur if people are allowed to move freely.
Uganda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry recently revealed that since the closure in February, Uganda’s exports to Rwanda are down from $660 million to about $203 million.
Rwanda also reported a loss of about $104 million
The communities around the border which relied heavily on trade and exchange of money continue pay the price of the bad relations between the two countries.
The Gatuna-Katuna border post has historically been the major transit route for cargo trucks to Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda maintains a trade embargo on Uganda. Rwandans are also restricted from traveling to Uganda.
In response to Nduhungirehe’s statement, Kutesa said “Rwandans are arrested here for illegal activities.”
He said both sides “have heard each other’s views and I think we will commit to see that we work on these issues.”
ChimpReports understands Rwanda will assess the idea of forming a joint verification committee to investigate the counter accusations of both countries.
“We (Uganda) are proposing that we should be doing verification mechanism where both of us look into each other’s allegations and try to establish the truth because we think this would be business of good will,” said Kutesa.
“That I hope is important to be considered. It was pointed out by both delegations and agreed that in order to succeed, the most fundamental thing to restore is good faith and confidence in each other,” he added.
While the relations between Uganda and Rwanda have recently taken a nosedive, yesterday’s meeting renewed hope of restoring the once booming bilateral ties.
Both delegates were seen exchanging pleasantries in the conference hall much as Rwandan officials back in Kigali took to Twitter to publicly leak critical information as the meeting was underway in Munyonyo.
Yolande Makolo, a senior communications official at the Rwandan presidency said on Twitter that Nduhungirehe told the meeting that Uganda helped rebels who attacked Rwanda recently.
This raised concerns about Rwanda’s commitment to resolving its differences with Uganda amicably.
Nevertheless, both parties said they would consult with their heads-of-state especially on arrest of Rwandan nationals in Uganda and the possibility of reopening the border.
“On the issue of Rwandans arrested and detained in this country (Uganda), we did not reach an agreement on this issue but it’s the issue we will continue to talk about,” said Nduhungirehe.
“We will consult our Heads of State and agree on the way forward on different proposals that were put on table especially by Rwandan side because they are important,” he added.
“They are, as I said, toxic in the relations between Uganda and Rwanda. But we have good faith and good will to solve the issues we have. We don’t need to create Commissions. We need good faith and goodwill to solve the issues that our people are talking about,” said Nduhungirehe.
The Rwandan delegation comprised the High Commissioner to Uganda Rtd Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, former Chief of Defence Staff and current Interior Minister, Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, National INtelligence and Security Services boss, Maj Gen Joseph Nzabamwita, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye, Local Government Minister Prof Anastase Shyaka among other officials.
The Ugandan team was led by Kutesa who was flanked by Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Patrick Mugoya and UPDF Military Intelligence boss, Brig Abel Kandiho.