Ugandan and Rwandan delegations once again met in Kigali, Rwanda, on Friday. They issued a joint communique at the end of the meeting.
The communique, signed by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa on behalf of Uganda and Mr Olivier Nduhungirehe on behalf of Rwanda, shows that there is more work still to be done, in particular in regard to verifying foreign nationals arrested by either country and ensuring that none of the countries destabilises the other.
The meeting was meant to prepare for an engagement between President Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame slated for February 21 at the closed Katuna/Gatuna common border.
The border has remained closed to goods from Uganda for almost a year, since the end of February 2019.
The livelihoods of people living by the borderline, who before this incident freely mingled and traded among themselves, have been gravely disrupted. Some have lost their lives, with Rwandan security personnel shooting dead some Ugandans and Rwandans found moving small volumes of merchandise across the border to Rwanda.
Bigger players, including those who trade between the two countries and or beyond, have suffered grave losses too. Transporters and those who have accommodation that is mainly utilised by cross border traders between the two countries are also leaking their wounds following a year of an enforced nosedive in business. Those who had taken loans might have suffered the worst.
In short, counting the costs of the border fallout that has played out over the past year would be a difficult task. What is clear is that the cost is huge and the victims diverse. It is difficult to point out any winners in this fallout.
The dispute has even complicated progress of the East African Community (EAC), with the border dispute an instatement of a barrier to trade that offends the East African Common Market Protocol.
The commonly shared logic is that free trade is good for everyone, and nothing must come in the way of brotherly peoples who live very close to one another, freely moving about and trading together.
In the communique issued by the two ministers on Friday, the officials recommended that the presidents consider reopening the border, but they put a proviso that this should be subject to the issues pointed out being fulfilled.
No one should fail on their part, and never again should this or any border be shut down.
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