Tension as Uganda-Rwanda border remains closed

Tension as Uganda - Rwanda border remains closed
A collage of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L) and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (R).

Tension is still high among people living near the Uganda-Rwanda border because of the unresolved dispute between the two countries.

It all started on February 27th, 2019, when Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda at Katuna and Chanika in Kabale and Kisoro districts respectively.

The closure affected hundreds of cargo trucks destined for Rwanda. The Rwandan authorities advised the truck drivers to turn back and use Mirama Hill border in Ntungamo district, which is 100kilometers away.

Initially, Rwanda claimed it had closed the borders to work on the One-stop border post.

However, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Richard Sezibera issued a travel advisory to their nationals strongly cautioning them against traveling to Uganda, saying their safety isn’t guaranteed.

He later accused Uganda of harboring Rwandan dissidents planning to topple the Kigali government under President, Paul Kagame. Rwandan security also destroyed temporary bridges erected by residents to help them cross to both countries.

The tension between the two countries has triggered concern among residents along the border, saying it is a precursor for war. The tension has also taken a huge toll on business as residents can no longer trade like it was in the past.

Kellen Rwengabo, a resident of Katuna town council, says they are living in fear of war ever since Rwanda started deploying soldier on the hills neighboring the border.

Rwengabo, who sells mattresses and blankets, says all kinds of businesses in Katuna border town are affected because of the border closure.

According to Rwengabo, she would make over a million Shillings each day before the border was closed, but she now only makes 50,000 Shillings.

She however, says Rwandan soldiers dressed in civilian clothes sneak into Uganda at night to buy foodstuffs for their families in Rwanda.

David Baguma Munyankore deals in general merchandise in Katuna border town. According to Baguma, some traders and residents have started relocating to distant places for fear of what might happen.

According to Baguma, even if the dispute is resolved now, it will take days for the traders to recover from their current loses.

He explains that before the border was closed, he would sell maize flour worth Shillings 5 million to Rwandan nationals but he hardly sells Shillings 10,000 since they were blocked from crossing to Uganda.

Ibrahim Twishimiye, a resident of Chanika, which borders Kisoro district, says the situation isn’t different on the side of Rwanda.

He says currently they have to make sure that none of the security officers deployed along the porous border is watching before they cross to Uganda.

Twishimiye says also although Rwanda accuses Uganda of harboring wrong elements targeting its leadership, it was unfair to close the border, which is affecting ordinary people.

Isaac Kyoshabire, a boda boda rider at Katuna border, says because of the tension between the two countries he retires before 08:00pm compared to the past when he would work until 09:00pm.

Fred Tumwesigye, a deal in hides and skins at Katuna border, says Rwandan security has also started harassing Ugandans crossing from Rwanda to Uganda.

Tumwesigye says Rwandan security recently confiscated his 40 hides worth Shillings 160,000 and the bicycle at Gatuna border crossing.