Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame has finally revealed why cargo trucks from Uganda were barred from crossing into Rwanda through Gatuna border point, saying the official reason authorities in Rwanda fronted then, was false.
On February 27, over 100 cargo trucks including those carrying perishable and inflammable products were stuck at the Katuna border post after the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) blocked cargo trucks from accessing the border crossing and advised the businessmen to access Rwanda through Kagitumba and Mirama hills border points. However, these border points were also found closed.
Kigali through the Rwanda Revenue Authority said the diversion was due to “ongoing” construction works at Katuna.
Now, while opening the Africa CEO Forum on Monday in Kigali, Kagame said the actual reason for the blockage had nothing to do with construction works, but instead revealed the reason was political.
The Forum brings together Heads of State, CEOs, investors, top executives, experts and other officials from various industries to deliberate on Africa’s business prospects.
“The problem is not the road or the road being constructed.The problem is politics. We have hundreds of people from Rwanda, arrested, detained in prisons for years in Uganda, without being charged or appearing anywhere in court,” Kagame said on Monday.
Kagame said the security of Rwandans in Uganda could not be guaranteed.
But Kagame’s statement today contradicts his earlier submission on the matter while addressing leaders attending the 13th National Leadership retreat known as Umwiherero, in Gabiro recently.
He said the challenge at Katuna/ Gatuna border is temporary and has nothing to do with Uganda.
“I hope that will be resolved, let’s do whatever is possible to ease traffic flow at the border. There are more serious issues to deal with,” Kagame said then.
Rwanda “strongly” advised her nationals not to travel to Uganda. Rwandan students who study from Uganda daily were as well blocked from crossing for studies. Many were also stopped from attending their university graduation ceremonies in Uganda.
Kagame says Kampala’s attitude of not listening to his demands meant that the People of Rwanda were unwelcome to Uganda, justifying Rwanda government ban on its citizens against travel to Uganda.
“This means the message Uganda is telling Rwandans is, don’t come here. We have raised this issue with the Ugandan government. We told you, if you have people who have committed crimes, deal with that legally and openly,” Kagame said.
However, many Rwandans were shoryly after the travel ban seen desperately trying to cross to Uganda, some through village paths, others through water bodies. It took the intervention of Rwanda Defence forces to enforce the travel ban.
Kagame also used the CEO forum to accuse Ugandan authorities of frustrating trade activities through blocking goods transiting transiting through Uganda to Kenya.
“We had containers leaving Kigali, going to Mombasa. A container of minerals was blocked at the border for 5 months with no explanation,” he said, adding that “a Kenyan company was exporting milk from Rwanda.The containers were held until tens of thousands of litres of milk were spoilt.”
But Uganda has neither closed its borders to any country nor blocked cargo trucks of any country from accessing the Ugandan territory. Instead, Rwanda’s list of accusations against Uganda keep growing, the latest being politics. It is also not clear whether Rwanda is as mineral rich as to export containers of minerals.
The Rwandan leader said after the signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), that he travelled to Uganda and told the President about what was “happening but the two countries are caught up in small matters that we can’t even justify.”
“Why not solve these matters so we can all benefit?” Kagame asked.
This is yet another public statement by President Kagame on the growing tensions between Uganda and Rwanda.
In his remarks at the Umwiherero, President Kagame complained that there are Rwandans arrested in Uganda and deported. Ugandan authorities maintain the only Rwandans deported are those who are found committing undercover criminal acts that compromise Uganda’s national security. There are also growing concerns of the Rwandan state’s kidnapping of Rwandan refugees from Uganda who then disappear.
A Rwandan, Rene Rutagungira, is currently facing the court martial for kidnapping and illegally repatriating to Rwanda, the former body guard of President Kagame, Lt Mutabazi – who was a refugee in Uganda at the time he was abducted by Rwandan authorities.
A number of Rwandan senior army officers have over the years fallen out of favour of President Kagame and escaped abroad where they live in exile. Patrick Karegyeya, former Rwandan Head of Intelligence was murdered in South Africa. Former Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa who also lives in South Africa has survived three assasination attempts. All attempts on his life have been blamed on the Rwandan state.
Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a 2019 note verbale, reiterated to Rwandan authorities that Uganda was focused on defence of its territory, as well as security of Ugandan citizens, visitors and refugees. The Minister pointed out concerns about the assasination of Ugandan citizens as a matter Uganda would not tolerate.
In a letter to President Kagame, President Museveni also said it was “wrong for Rwanda to operate behind the government of Uganda.”
While the government of Uganda has exercised diplomatic caution, with President Museveni advising Ugandan government against responding to Rwanda’s claims against Uganda in media, in preference to use of diplomatic channels between the two countries, those close to investigations into kidnapping of Rwandan refugees say Uganda’s decisive actions to dismantle Rwanda’s intelligence cells in Uganda and stop Rwanda from kidnapping refugees are what incensed the Kigali authorities.
Uganda’s open border policy to refugees is hailed by the United Nations as the best in the world. Uganda hosts over a million refugees including Rwandans.