Rwanda’s tax body has announced that the Katuna border with Uganda which has for months been closed to heavy trucks carrying cargo, will be opened temporarily from June 10 to 22.
This, according to Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), is to allow for trial activities on the road section which according to the Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) was undergoing construction.
The revenue body makes reference to a letter dated June 7, by Rwanda Transport Development Agency, which expressed the need to carry out trials for the heavy trucks movement at Katuna One Stop Border Post (OSBP).
These trials would be conducted for a period of two weeks from 10th up to 22nd June 2019, according to RTDA. The objective would be “to assess the operationalization of the constructed works and equipment before the reception of works”.
“The Management of Rwanda Revenue Authority is pleased to inform the general public that heavy trucks are allowed to provisionally cross Gatuna OSBP between 10th and 22nd June 2019 in order to facilitate these trial activities requested by RTDA,” the notice by RRA reads in part.
The URA Commissioner for Customs, Dickson Kateshumbwa told Soft Power News on Monday that he has indeed received communication from the Commissioner for Customs from Rwanda Revenue Authority.
“I have received communication from the Commissioner Customs on the other side, stating that the border will be temporarily opened for tests”.
In February this year, RRA wrote to its counterpart agency, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) indicating that heavy trucks transiting through the Uganda-Rwanda border of Katuna would be diverted to alternative border points to allow for the ongoing works on the One Stop Border Post at Katuna. The letter was however dispatched to Uganda after closure of the border, a matter that sparked rage among Ugandan traders.
Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) said the trucks carrying heavy cargo would be diverted to the Kagitumba and Mirama hills border point. However, it turned out that the two border points were also closed to Ugandan cargo.
“In a bid to expedite the construction works currently taking place at Gatuna border posts that are aimed at extending smooth flow of goods and services at the border post, we are considering reducing the traffic of heavy trucks to allow completion of the OSBP infrastructure,” the February 28 letter by Uwamariya Rosine, the Commissioner for Customs Services at Rwanda Revenue Authority stated in part.
Uwamariya said the reduction in the trucks would provide ample space to the contractor to accomplish the works on time and the resume the use of route shall be communicated.
However, days later, Uganda government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, told the country that not only Katuna border had been blocked, but also, all other crossing points including Mirama hills.
He also said Rwandan Authorities had prevented their school children who study in Uganda on a daily, from crossing the border.
The closure of the Katuna border resulted into a customs paralysis, frustrating businesses for transporters moving cargo from across the border.
However Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame would later in March reveal that the reason for closing the border was political and not road construction as earlier cited by Rwanda.
While opening the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, President Kagame said the actual reason for the blockage had nothing to do with construction works, but instead revealed the reason was political.
“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.
Kagame said the security of Rwandans in Uganda could not be guaranteed. But Kagame’s statement 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.
President Museveni would later advise Ugandan officials to avoid responding to accusations by Rwanda in the media. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, Sam Kutesa has also said the issues with Rwanda would be resolved by diplomatic means not in the media.