Katuna border dispute talks end with no solution in sight

Friday June 05 2020

The virtual meeting of the adhoc commission for the normalisation of relations between Uganda and Rwanda ended on Thursday without a position, especially on the opening of the Katuna border point in Kabale District.

The meeting, the first of the commission since the fourth Quadripartite Heads of State Summit of President Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Angola’s Joao Laurenco and DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi on February 21, at the Katuna border, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the matter was supposed to pronounce itself on a tentative plan of reopening the border.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Sam Kutesa chaired the video conference meeting. It was attended by a delegation from Rwanda that was led by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Mr Vincente Biruta; DR Congo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Gilbert Kankonde Malamba and Angola’s Minister for External Relations, Mr Tete Antonio.

“Uganda’s stance in the meeting was that the border opens as the issues raised by Kigali are discussed further but Rwanda vehemently shot [the idea] down,” sources said on condition of anonymity since only Mr Kutesa is mandated to comment on the matter.

According to a draft communique, it was subsequently resolved that both Kampala and Kigali continue exchanging information that will allow verification of the allegations made, as well as working towards the fulfilment of paragraph 4 and 5 of the Communiqué of the 4th Quadripartite Heads of State Summit that took place on February 21, 2020.

Earlier on Thursday, the Rwandan state broadcaster tweeted that, “130 Rwandans currently held in the Ugandan prisons are set to be released in the coming weeks, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa has told the 4th adhoc commission.”

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However, according to the communique, Kigali also agreed to verify the list of Ugandans allegedly detained in Rwanda and requested Uganda to accord consular visits to the alleged Rwandan nationals detained in Uganda.

The parties also committed to expedite the ratification of the Extradition Treaty and further reiterated their commitment to protect and respect the human rights of nationals of either party in observance of the rule of law and international humanitarian law and by ensuring due process.

“.. parties agreed that political will is the cornerstone for normalisation of relations between the two countries and committed to continue to build upon the progress achieved thus far in the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding of Luanda, in a climate of mutual trust,” the communique reads in part.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic turn of events, diplomatic sources further intimated that Uganda's UN Permanent Representative, Mr Adonia Ayebare, whom President Museveni named as Special Envoy on normalisation of relations late last year, was locked out of yesterday’s virtual meeting on directives of Mr Kutesa over unknown reasons.

Attempts to reach both principals for a comment were fruitless.

In July last year, President Lourenço of Angola, in July last year brought Mr Museveni and Mr Kagame to the discussion table for mediation after months of frosty relations between their governments.

Uganda, Rwanda and Angola are members of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a 12-member country body of countries that subscribe to the Great Lakes region.

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