Whatever is holding the second round of talks between Uganda and Rwanda has to be resolved quickly to allow the two sister counties fast-track the peace process.
After months of bickering, which climaxed in Rwanda closing its border point at Gatuna on February 28, and advising Rwandans against coming to Uganda, President Museveni and his counterpart Paul Kagame met in Angola in August and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on regional cooperation and security.
The principals set up a joint ad hoc commission to help implement the MoU. The commission held their first bilateral meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on September 16 and agreed to meet again in Kampala after 30 days. The 30 days elapsed on October 16, and the much-awaited meeting did not happen.
The fear is that the silence on both sides and endless preparations for a follow-up meeting might be misconstrued to mean a deliberate attempt to throw the baby out with the bathwater yet Rwandans, as well as Ugandans, have for long been waiting to rejoice the return of normalcy. The restrictions at the border have messed up things. Uganda has not only been trading with Rwanda but also uses the country as a gateway to eastern DR Congo.
The constraints at the border between Uganda and Rwanda have disrupted trade between the two sister nations and in some cases ruined lives. The traders at Gatuna border have expressed anger and frustration and questioned procrastinating. Small business owners lost source of livelihood in endless border drama and others continue to count losses.
In the first three months of Gatuna border disruptions, Uganda lost more than $664 million (Shs2.5 trillion) worth of exports to Rwanda while Kigali lost $104 million (Shs385b), according to Uganda’s East African Community ministry. This data excludes losses counted by Private Sector Foundation and those incurred by other service providers like transporters, health and education providers.
We need each other to thrive as courteous neighbours. So leaders have a duty to push the joint ad hoc commission to wake up and expedite the peace process.
The small concerns that could be standing in the road to peoples’ prosperity should be ignored in public interest. Silence breeds unnecessary mistrust and suspicion. Let’s act before it’s too late.
In any dialogue, there are two fundamental needs that must be met — the ego need and the practical need. These should not clutter our quest for a peaceful resolution to the border conflict. Our leaders must remember the importance of maintaining relations between the two countries.
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