February 21, 2020

DISAPPOINTMENT: Rwanda-Uganda Border Not Opening Today, May Be Opened In 45 Days or Even Never


With Ugandan flags and placards, and in ruling NRM party yellow colors, supporters of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni lined the highway between Kabale town and Gatuna border.

In choreographed act, thousands of Ugandans from Kabale district lined the route chanting praise songs for their President Yoweri Museveni as he headed for the Gatuna/Katuna border. With its closure in February 2019, business for Ugandans has died, tens of thousands are jobless and hungry.

Today, President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, with mediation from Angola’s João Lourenço and DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, held their fourth quadripartite summit at the Gatuna border. It is less than 10km from Uganda’s Kabale town, reason why when it was closed, Ugandans paid the highest the price. Rwanda’s nearest town is more than 50km away.

For weeks, Ugandan media and politicians have reduced the Rwanda-Uganda fallout, to alleged Rwanda decision to close its border with Uganda. Official figures show in the year since the conflict started, Uganda has lost up to $300m worth of exports to Rwanda. It is a huge hole in Uganda’s economy.

The border situation is that: Rwandans cannot go to Uganda because of Rwandan Government advisory not to travel there; Rwanda is not sending any exports to Uganda like milk; and Uganda claims Rwanda not allowing in any exports from Uganda like cement and drinks like Uganda Waragi, a gin that had developed taste in Rwanda.

However, despite a 4-hour summit today to resolve the Rwanda-Uganda ongoing conflict, involving a range of issues, there seems to have been no progress, at least as seen from the wording of the final communiqué. More to it, the President’s dropped the much-anticipated press conference.

The only highlight of the summit, held in a state-of-the-art makeshift tent, was the signing of an already announced Extradition Treaty between Rwanda and Uganda, respectively by Foreign Affairs Dr Vincent Biruta and Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa. It means, from now on, any suspected criminal in either country will not be “deported”, but “extradited” – which will is a more complicated development.

As for the border, many of the Ugandans who donned ruling NRM party’s yellow colors and placards, are going to be extremely disappointed their leader Museveni didn’t deliver the opened border.

According to language in final communiqué, the ball has been put solely back in the Ugandan side of the geopolitical court. Uganda has to first deal with the dissidents and rebel forces on its territory fighting Rwanda. And any action taken by Uganda will have to be “verified” by Rwanda, which raises question of how suddenly Uganda will decide to send all Rwandan dissident out.

Uganda’s President Museveni has been given “one month” to deal with Rwandan dissidents and rebels such as the Rwanda National Congress and RUD-Urunana. After, then Ad-Hoc team of Ministers and Intelligence Chiefs will verify if indeed Uganda has stopped all dissident support.

It is only after the Ad-Hoc commission has verified, that they will send report to the four Heads of State. The mediators Angola and DRC will within 15 days convene a 5th quadripartite summit at the same Gatuna border, during which, if all goes according to plan, is when the borders will be opened. This is within or after the next 45 days.

All this is what is on paper. The hard work now begins, and it remains to be seen how President Museveni will suddenly cut all alleged ties to Rwandan dissidents. President Kagame said in March last year that President Museveni and his brother Gen Salim Saleh Akandwanaho have been mobilising Rwandan dissidents and rebels since 1996.

Meanwhile, earlier, while Uganda’s Museveni arrived from Kabale district to Gatuna border for the summit, Kagame, Lourenço and Tshisekedi drove in a single convoy from Kigali to Gatuna, a distance of about 100km. The three leaders were in different cars.

Kagame first met Tshisekedi and Lourenço in Kigali before they set off for Gatuna. The two had arrived ear morning today.

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