The East African Community has lost all hope of resolving the political differences between Uganda and Rwanda that led to the closure of the common border in 2019 due to the lack of political dialogue.
This arose when the Tensions between the two former allies continue to simmer as bilateral trade suffers.
Rwanda seeks trade and political partnerships elsewhere in the region, including repairing fences with Burundi, with whom it has been embroiled in disputes security and the new kid on the block, the Democratic Republic of the Congo preparing to join the East African community.
Uganda’s Junior Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told The EastAfrican this week that Kampala is no more interested in talking to Kigali as they believe they have done all that Rwanda has done prior to the talks and the implementation of the previous agreement asked.
“There’s not much we can do if you are not willing to work together,” said Oryem. “At the moment we don’t mind and you should ask these questions (about the border closure) to Rwanda. We are not the ones who closed the border, and it is now up to them to open it whenever they want. ”
The movement of people and goods remains between them after the closure of the then lucrative north restricted corridor border post of Gatuna / Katuna in February 2019, which almost brought cross-border trade and bilateral relations to a standstill.
Rwanda accuses Uganda of fueling instability by adding hostile groups to the Paul Kagame government sheltered and tortured innocent Rwandans.
Kampala, for its part, accuses Rwanda of espionage on its soil.
Although there has been no apparent escalation in tensions between the two countries, the problems remain unsolved . Diplomatic efforts by regional and international leaders have so far failed.
Though Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been reluctant, despite recent reports that Rwanda had used Pegasus spy software on Ugandan high-ranking officials – Allegations that Rwanda rejected as unfounded – Mr Kagame has spoken on several forums, pointing out that his problems with Uganda are related to the mistreatment of Rwandans in Uganda and sabotage.
“There are a number of problems that need to be solved. There are always two that belong to it; both countries will continue to search for a solution to the remaining problems. We understand the cause and should find a way forward and a better understanding than in the recent past, “President Kagame said in an interview with Al Jazeera last week.
He responded to a question about the state of affairs Relations with Uganda.
Several talks, including four meetings between Presidents Kagame and Museveni, brokered by João Lourenço from Angola and Félix Tshisekedi from DRC, did not achieve much, apart from one of the two Heads of State and Government signed an agreement to end long-standing tensions.
The contract took place on February 21, 2020 in Katuna. Just last month Uganda invited Rwanda to talks on the implementation of the deal, but Rwanda declined, saying that while it was open to talks, they would not include Uganda in the current circumstances because its agents continued to kidnap its citizens in Uganda and support harassed and political and armed groups that are hostile to Kigali.
Also, the heads of state of the two countries, who have met at least four times previously, have their differences under arbitration of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have not spoken for months.
President Kagame said communications with his Ugandan counterpart had been “more or less stopped” lately.
Rwanda claims that Uganda is hunting Rwandans, which President Kagame says it means “persecution”.
“But Ugandans who come to Rwanda have not faced the same hardship like Rwandans when they go to Uganda. The problem that led to the closure of the border needs to be answered before it is reopened, ”said Mr Kagame.
In September President Museveni announced in an interview with France 24 that he had started the talks , as they didn’t do much.
Meanwhile, Kampala has continued to deport Rwandans on allegations of illegal activities. According to Kigali, 2,567 have been deported since 2017 (1,943 men, 540 women and 84 children).
Kigali and Burundi have moved to resolve their differences, and this week Burundi’s EAC Minister Ezechiel Nibigira said that their differences of opinion would have improved significantly.
“We are taking positive steps to strengthen peace and security. Burundi made two attempts to help Rwanda when terrorists preparing to attack Rwanda were arrested and extradited to Kigali. Rwanda also turned over terrorists who attacked Burundi. It’s a good gesture, ”Nibigira told the East African legislative assembly in Arusha.
As the stalemate persists, Rwanda has also diverted most of its trade to the central corridor that connects it to the port of Dares, Salaam and aggressively seeks alternative trading partners and routes. According to the World Bank, Rwanda was Uganda’s fifth largest export market in 2017, taking in goods worth around US $ 180 million. Rwanda now exported $ 10 million worth of goods to Uganda.
Ugandan officials initially downplayed the border closure, believing that Rwanda would open it as soon as most of its imports through the port of Mombasa to the Northern Corridor through Uganda.
The ongoing stalemate makes the multi-million dollar border infrastructure, the only Gatuna / Katuna border post, superfluous, which causes enormous costs for both the countries and the East African community.
The common border points of Gatuna and Kagitumba have standard customs and immigration facilities, warehouses and premises for commercial operators to stimulate traffic between Rwanda and Uganda, the volume of which has grown significantly in the past two years and in the past Two years ago, the coronavirus pandemic had fallen dramatically.
Rwandan business people have since turned to Tans ania and other markets turned to source the goods they previously sourced and exported from Uganda.
Rwanda’s opposition leader Frank Habineza said the State Department says talks have stalled over Covid-19 , “But the torture of Rwandans in Uganda has not stopped.”
“So the two countries should resume talks leading to the reopening of the border. If there are differences, people need to talk to each other more, ”he said.
In July, Rwanda handed over 19 men who had allegedly committed an attack in Burundi and who had fled to its territory last year. Burundi surrendered eleven men believed to be members of the National Liberation Force (FNL) in October for allegedly planning an attack in Rwanda.
“This is the spirit that will move us forward as a community,” said the Burundian Minister.