Rwanda-Uganda talks start today in Kigali

Monday September 16 2019

President Museveni (left) shakes hands with

President Museveni (left) shakes hands with President Paul Kagame as Angolan President Joao Lourenco looks on after signing a pact aimed at ending standoff on Wednesday. PPU PHOTO 

By URN

The talks to end the diplomatic row between Uganda and Rwanda start today in Kigali.

The Ugandan team is headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa while Richard Sezibera, the Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs, will lead the Kigali team.

The talks follow a pact signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda last month in Luanda, Angola, to ease the tensions between the two countries.

The talks are expected to lead to the opening of the Katuna border which has been closed since February this year, jeopardising trade flow between the two nations.

According to Bank of Uganda, between March and July 2018, Uganda exported Shs323 billion worth of goods to Rwanda (that is formal trade). This dropped to only Shs23 billion in March and July 2019, the period the border between the two countries has been closed.

The talks have now raised optimism among experts although some insist the problem between Kigali and Kampala is political and can only be ended by the two men leading both countries.

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Dr Enock Twinoburyo, a Ugandan economist based in Kigali, told this reporter that there is hope that talks will yield fruits. He said this is because there is a MoU in place already to act as a guide.

"Both sides remain very expectant though uncertainty hovers over short term," he said. "The economies are too interlinked socially and economically, it makes sense to restore parity. The bigger issue and challenge is stickiness of political standoff which may prevail over economics and social aspects."

The closure of the border has seen trade between the two countries almost ground to zero.

More impact was felt by ordinary people close to the border from either side. These people trade informally by crossing to either side using footpaths. These had also been closed. The Kabale and Kisoro area, according to leaders there, send Irish potatoes worth Shs4 billion annually to Rwanda. This transaction was interrupted this year.

Socially, people were denied opportunity to cross from either side to attend different functions of their friends or relatives. Children from Rwanda had been stopped from crossing over to attend school at Uganda side.

Dr Isaac Shinyekwa, a research fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre, argued that the problem between Uganda and Rwanda is known by Mr Museveni and Mr Kagame. He said they are the ones to solve it.

As a gesture of goodwill, last week Uganda released and sent home Rwandans that had been detained in Uganda.

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