Rwanda has deployed heavily armed personnel along its border lines with Uganda – further raising already strained diplomatic tensions between the two countries. The armed personnel are visible in the hills at Mukaniga, Byumba and Buganza. Also at Chanika in Kisoro district, the Rwandan army can be seen patrolling the Rwandan side of the border.
Uganda’s Internal Security Organization (ISO) officials and locals confirmed the presence of the heavily armed Rwanda Defence Force soldiers along the borders. Although ISO officials said, Uganda doesn’t see a reason yet to also deploy armed personnel, Rwanda’s deployment has aroused tensions among the locals near the borders.
Rwanda and Uganda once fought a deadly battle on foreign soil in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in June 2000. The number of casualties was in excess of 1,000, with Uganda registering the biggest deaths.
Rwanda’s deployment signals an escalation of the diplomatic hostility between the two countries which has been ongoing for the last two years. Since Wednesday last week, Rwanda blocked Ugandan trucks and buses from crossing into or out of Rwanda. Initially, the official reason given, was that Rwanda was upgrading its one stop border post at Gatuna border and advised drivers to use Chanika border post as an alternative.
However this border post too was blocked. Indeed, moments later, Rwandan minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Richard Sezibera, tweeted that Rwandans are strongly advised not to travel to Uganda due to ongoing arrests, harassment, and torture.
Rwandan authorities went on to block Rwandan nationals including students from crossing into Uganda although some of them could be seen using the unmanned entry points. Uganda government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo on Saturday said that strangely, no Rwandan national had flown to Entebbe airport from Rwanda since Wednesday which was indicative that perhaps Rwandans have been blocked from from flying into Uganda.
Bernard Ssengendo, one of the Ugandan truck drivers still stuck in Rwanda, says that although Ugandan drivers are now allowed to make movements during daytime and return to the Ugandan side of the border for meals, they are ordered to lock themselves inside their trucks throughout the night by the Rwandan police.
Jamil Sebo, another truck driver found at Katuna says that he was only allowed to cross over to the Ugandan side to buy medicine. He says Rwanda police has given them no reasons warranting him to lock himself in the truck.
“They don’t tell you anything. Since last week they don’t allow us to drive out of Rwanda although for now, people are allowed to move into Uganda for meals and medicine. And when night falls, they tell you to lock yourself inside the truck. They don’t give any reasons,” said Sebo.
Uganda Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda on Friday said that the government, through the ministry of Foreign Affairs is handling the matter.