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Rwanda-Uganda Stalemate: No Sign of Border Opening, Despite Agreement Signing

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Jack Tukesiga, a money changer at Katuna border, says they are happy that the two leaders had finally accepted to resolve their differences and signed an agreement. He says their prayer is to see the border open for business to resume.
22 Aug 2019 16:03
Nelson Nshangabasheija speaking to our reporter at Katuna border on Thursday

Audio 7

Business is yet to normalize at the Uganda-Rwanda border despite the agreement signed between President, Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame.

The two leaders signed an agreement in Angola’s capital Luanda on Wednesday that could end the stalemate between the two sister countries. The signing was witnessed by Angolan President, João Lourenço and his DRC counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi.

In the agreement, the two leaders agreed to respect and protect the rights and freedoms of the nationals of the other party residing or transiting through their national territories, in accordance with laws of their countries and desist from financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces. 

Both countries also agreed to resume cross-border activities, including the movement of persons and goods.  The presidents also undertook, in the spirit of Pan-Africanism and regional cooperation, to comprehensively cooperate in politics, security, Defense, trade and culture. 

Signing began with a quadripartite summit on July 12, 2019 where the four leaders met and agreed to begin a resolution process.  Despite the agreement, life has remained the same at the Uganda-Rwanda border at Gatuna, which borders Kabale district and Chanika in Kisoro district,

Our reporter visited the border and saw heavily armed Rwandan soldiers still manning their territory. There was no movement of trucks to either side of the border. Our reporter also observed that no Rwandan national was being allowed to cross to Uganda like it has been in the past months since Rwanda closed the borders.   

Only a few cows were seen loitering around the no man’s land on Uganda’s side of the border. Residents expressed mixed reactions about the agreement with many, saying they will only believe it once Kagame opens the border.   Jack Tukesiga, a money changer at Katuna border, says they are happy that the two leaders had finally accepted to resolve their differences and signed an agreement. He says their prayer is to see the border open for business to resume.

//Cue in: “kuteganisibwa nokuba ebeire… 

Cue out:…na kunu.”//

Ismail Akampurira, a businessman in Katuna town council, says although they are excited about the agreement, they will only celebrate when they see trucks crossing to either side of the border. 

He asks Rwandan President, Paul Kagame to be considerate and expedite the border opening, saying it has greatly affected business since it was closed.

//Cue in: “ hati nimpurira nshemereirwe… 

Cue out:…mu kintu.”//

Nelson Nshangabasheija, the Katuna town Council LC III chairperson, says they will only welcome the agreement when its terms are implemented. 

Nshangabasheija, however, says that all the same, they are happy about the agreement because it is a big step in resolving the standoff between the two countries. He says that it is now up to President, Kagame to expedite the border opening.

//Cue in: “ I appreciate and…

Cue out:…of trucks.”//

English

//Cue in: “ endagano egyo ku…

Cue out: …mu Uganda,”//

Luganda

//Cue in: “ ku ndagano eya…

Cue out: …border nzigule.”//

Lule Baziliyo, a driver in Jaguar Bus Company told our reporter that they are yet to realise the effect of the agreement because by Thursday noon Rwanda security officers were still restricting entry to their territory.

//Cue in: “ ba passenger tebanaba…

Cue out: …ekigenda mumaso.”//

Simpson Muhangi, a businessman at Chanika border told our reporter on phone that they still doubt the agreement until Kagame opens the border.  

He says although the agreement wasn’t meant to take immediate effect there is no slight indicator that the border is opening soon.   //Cue in: “ tutegyereize tureebe ekishushwani…

Cue out: …barasibakwe.”//

Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda in February 27, 2019, to purportedly expedite the construction of the single customs post at Gatuna border. Rwanda advised truck drivers destined to Kigali to use Kagitumba border via Mirama Hills.  However, Rwandan officials including President, Paul Kagame later accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in ungazetted areas.  

They also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially from the Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government. Despite the border closure and warnings Rwandans continue to cross to Uganda using porous border points to look for food stuffs and goods. 

This forced Rwandan security authorities to start using force against those found crossing into Uganda. In May 2019, Rwandan soldiers shot dead John Batista Kyerengye, a resident of Nkoma cell in Ntarabwe parish, Nyagatare District at Kiruhura village in Kashekye parish, Kamwezi sub county, Rukiga district while attempting to cross with second hand clothes to Rwanda.

  Alex Nyesiga Atuheire, a resident of Nyakabungo village in Kamwezi Sub County in Rukiga district in Uganda was also shot dead while trying to stop Rwandan security officials from arresting Kyerengye.

On May 3, 2019, Rwandan soldiers shot Innocent Ndahimana, a beans trader and resident of Nyakabungo Village in Chumbe in Gicumbi District Northern Province in Rwanda while smuggling beans to Uganda through Katuna border in Kabale district.