Rwandan Security Officers have reportedly destroyed all temporary bridges erected along Katuna, Gatuna and Mukensiyoona in Katuna Town Council to block Rwandan citizens from crossing to Uganda.
The development comes amid increased tension between Uganda and Rwanda. For the last one week, the Rwandan border at Gatuna in Kabale, and Chanika, in Kisoro has been closed, blocking entry of hundreds of cargo trucks transiting through the busiest crossing point, to Kigali, and several other destinations.
Rwanda government instead advised cargo trucks to turn-back and use Mirama Hill border in Ntungamo district a distance of 100 kilometres away.
Amid the chaos, Rwanda, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Richard Sezibera barred Rwandans from crossing into Uganda and accused Uganda of harbouring dissidents planning to topple the Kagame administration.
Despite the directive, Rwandan nationals neighbouring Ugandan borders continued to silently cross to Uganda especially to Katuna and the neighbouring areas through porous borders. Many of them were coming to Uganda to buy food for their survival, crossing through Gatuna and Mukensiyoona streams.
But Rwandan soldiers and police officers have now destroyed all the temporary bridges that were constructed along the streams. Our area reporter says that there are police officers deployed at every footpath connecting the two countries, who are often replaced with heavily armed soldiers specifically to block Rwandan nationals from crossing to Uganda.
John Dushinzimana, a national found at Mukensiyoona market after escaping from Byumba in Northern Province, Rwanda to buy food says that all the temporary bridges at the streams separating the two countries have been destroyed and that the security personnel were whipping whoever attempted to cross through the porous borders.
Dushinzimana says that the blockage has left Rwandans stuck without food to eat and that most Rwandans are totally unhappy about the current situation.
Deus Ntahobari, another Rwandan national says that he crossed to Katuna on Tuesday to work for food to feed his family, but on returning back, he found all bridges destroyed. Ntahobari says that he decided to remain in Katuna in fear of being reprimanded for crossing into Uganda.
Jean Claude Afazari, another resident of Byumba in Rwanda says that the situation has forced him to cross back to Rwanda after witnessing from a distance how those who were caught crossing with food from Uganda were whipped. He adds that security officers poured paraffin in some of the food that had been bought by some of the residents.
Solange Mujawimana, a businesswoman dealing in agricultural produce is also stuck on the Ugandan side of the border. She says that although she used to buy foodstuffs from Uganda and sell them in Rwanda, her movement has now been curtailed.
Katuna Town Council Mayor Nelson Nshangabasheija says that tension is still mounting across the region. He adds that business at the border post has completely collapsed.
Speaking before parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda explained that Uganda is optimistic that the matter will be soon resolved.