KATUNA: Uganda, Rwanda Sign Extradition Treaty, Border Closure Still Far from Over

Presidents Yoweri Museveni (R) and Paul Kagame exchange a hand shake on meeting at Katuna border.

KATUNA – Uganda and Rwanda whose main border has been closed for a year now following a diplomatic stalemate, have Friday signed an extradition treaty that will serve as the framework for dealing with elements from either country said to engage in subversive activities against the other.

The signing took place on Friday at Katuna, the main border of Rwanda and Uganda following quadripartite talks between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, facilitated by Angolan President João Lourenço and DRC President, Felix Tshisekedi.

Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa signed the treaty together with his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta while the four Heads of State witnessed.

According to a joint communiqué read before the press by Manuel Domingos Augusto, the Angolan Minister for Foreign Affairs, “the Heads of State noted that progress has been made since last meeting regarding the commitment of the two parties (Uganda and Rwanda) to do everything they can to eliminate tension factors, including the release of prisoners from the two sides and the guarantee to continue with this process in observance of the rule of law”.

“The Presidents of DRC and Angola welcomed the signing of the extradition treaty that took place today in the framework of the Quadripartite Summit between Rwanda and Uganda which constitutes the legal framework to handle cases of Justice including those related to alleged subversive activities practiced by their nationals in the territory of the other party,” the communiqué adds.

Extradition is the formal process of one state surrendering an individual to another state for prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in the requesting country’s jurisdiction. It typically is enabled by a bilateral or multilateral treaty. Some states will extradite without a treaty but those cases are rare.

While many hoped the talks in Katuna would result into the reopening of the Katuna border which has been closed for a year now, outcomes from the discussions indicate this is far from happening.

The opening of the border will be determined by the outcomes of a verification process of claims raised by Rwanda regarding Uganda’s involvement with elements that Rwanda considers hostile.

Friday’s summit recommended that Uganda should within one month verify the allegations made by Rwanda about actions from its (Uganda’s) territory by forces considered hostile to the government of Rwanda.

“If these allegations are proved, the Ugandan government will take all measures to stop it and prevent it from happening again”.

According to the outcomes from the Katuna meeting, the said actions shall be verified and confirmed by the adhoc Ministerial committee for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding of Luanda.

“Once these recommendations are fulfilled and reported to the Heads of State, the facilitators will convene within 15 days a summit in Katuna for the solemn reopening of borders and subsequent normalization between the two countries”.

Museveni and Kagame praised the dedication of Angolan President and that of DRC in the search for a peaceful solution in the framework of reconciliation process between the two countries

Meanwhile, there was a press conference anticipated to take place after Friday’s meeting, however this did not happen.

At the last minute, Angola’s Foreign Affairs Minister told the press that waited to engage the two Presidents , that the Kagame and Museveni would not talk to the press. Intsead, he referred them to the communiqué.

“I want to commend your patience here, but I was tasked by the Heads of State to refer you to the communiqué we just read. The opinion of the Heads of State is that we will give time to the Adhoc Commission to do its job. And we look forward to see you soon back here in Katuna,” Manuel Domingos Augusto said.

In February last year, Rwanda blocked several Ugandan cargo trucks from crossing to Rwanda citing construction works. Other crossing points Cyanika and Kagitumba where Ugandan trucks were redirected, were also found blocked.

President Kagame would later reveal that the move had nothing to do with construction works but was political.

Kigali has since accused Uganda of among other things illegally incarcerating and deporting her citizens.

The country blocked their nationals from crossing to Uganda including school going individuals.

Uganda dismissed and the claims on grounds that they followed judicial process to deport some of the Rwandan citizens who are engaged in criminal acts intended to compromise Uganda’s national security.

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