Uganda on Friday again blamed Rwanda for failing to lift an embargo on her goods destined for Rwandan market.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa made the claim while briefing the diplomatic corps in Kampala on the status of the Uganda-Rwanda relations and warned that any local or foreign threats against Uganda will be dealt with decisively whenever and wherever they occur.
On Rwanda’s restriction Uganda’s exports Kutesa said: “Export of Ugandan goods to Rwanda has been prohibited by Rwandan authorities. The same authorities have introduced an export permit system for people that intend to export goods to Uganda, which is practically impossible to obtain. I have previously described this as a trade embargo, which indeed it is.”
Kutesa continued: “Government of Uganda has not restricted any movement of goods and people from Uganda into Rwanda. The movement of people from Uganda to Rwanda has continued normally. This is consistent with our regional and 3 international obligations. What has continued to exist are the restrictions on the movement of goods and Rwandan citizens from Rwanda to Uganda.”
Closure of the Katuna border
Kutesa told diplomats that the decision by Rwanda to close Katuna border, which is a One Stop Border Post, was unilateral, sudden and took the Government of Uganda by surprise. “Rwanda diverted all traffic to Mirama Hills and Cyanika Customs Border Posts. The sudden closure of Katuna border post led to congestion and delays at Cyanika and Mirama Hills, resulting into increase in the cost of doing business and loss of business, especially of perishable goods,” he said.
He said the initial reason given by the Government of Rwanda for the closure was that they were going to carry out some repairs at the Katuna One Stop Border Post. “Whereas it is Rwanda’s sovereign right to carry out the repairs, courtesy would have required them to inform the Government of Uganda in advance about the repairs that would impede travel between the two countries across an international border. This would have been consistent with the methods of work employed by the two countries sharing the One Stop Border Post,” he said but the minister added that it turned out that the reason for closing the border was actually not to carry out repairs, but the closure was due to “political reasons.”
Allegations of restricting business with Rwanda
The minister said it was not true that Uganda has restricted business with Rwanda, stating that on the contrary, Uganda has been a vocal advocate for regional integration and building closer connectivity in trade between us and our neighbours, including Rwanda. This is essential for our common prosperity. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the movement of goods and people across our common border has been restricted, he said.
He said the restriction of business harms the economies and social interaction and also threatens the integration efforts under the East African Community, “which we have all worked hard to build.”
“Many of the people whose movement is being restricted have relatives found on either side of the border. Uganda is committed to addressing any trade related issues, because we are convinced that doing so strengthens our regional integration and also helps us integrate faster into the global economy,” he said.
Allegations of arrest, torture and harassment of Rwandans
The minister said that much as Rwanda has alleged illegal arrest, torture and harassment of Rwandans in Uganda, it is not true. “This also is totally false. Rwandans are welcome to visit Uganda. However, Uganda expects Rwandans who visit Uganda, just like any other visitors, to be law abiding. Anyone who breaks the law will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” he said.
He said several Rwandan nationals who have been arrested for breaking the law have either been charged in courts of law or deported back to Rwanda. “In addition, a number of Rwandan security operatives have been entering Uganda without following laid down procedures governing entry of security personnel into the country. A number of these, when apprehended, have been deported back to Rwanda,” he said.
The minister said Uganda takes seriously its duty and obligation to protect the security of its citizens and its borders. “Any local or foreign threats will continue to be dealt with decisively whenever and wherever they occur,” he said.