Rwanda govt allows citizens to cross into Uganda for trade

The charge d’affaires,  Ms Anne Katusiime (left), tours the Katuna border post offices in Kabale District last Saturday. PHOTO | ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • In March 2019, the Rwandan government closed its borders with Uganda after it claimed that latter was hosting and supporting its enemies. Uganda dismissed the claims as unfounded.

The Rwandan government has started allowing its citizens and Ugandans to cross either side of Gatuna border for trade and other business.

Rwanda officially reopened its borders with Uganda on March 7 after nearly three years of closure. Entry and exit of locals into both countries was restricted and only those visiting relatives were allowed to cross the border as well as cargo trucks.  

However, last Thursday, the restrictions were removed and people from both countries can purchase products from either side. 

In an interview with Daily Monitor on Saturday, Mr Franco Korinako, the chairman of Katuna Traders’ Association, said the move will spur business between the two countries.

“Because the Rwandans are now allowed to cross freely into Uganda, there is high turnover of consumer goods at Katuna Town (Kabale District) besides the revival of social interactions that had ceased to exist for the last three years after the Rwandan government closed its borders with Uganda,” Mr Korinako said. 

He added: “Shops were almost empty on the first day when the borders opened.  We are grateful to the government of Rwanda for this gesture.”

Some travellers from Rwanda said they are only required to present a copy of their national identity card before they are allowed to cross into Uganda and vice versa.

“We are happy that our government leaders allowed us to cross into Uganda for social interactions with our Ugandan relatives and friends besides. We can now carry some food stuffs from Uganda as we go back to our homes although there is still a limit. I am also happy that the requirement of a mandatory Covid-19 PCR test was suspended because raising Shs100,000 for a single test was too high for an ordinary citizen to afford,” Ms Constance Wimana, a Rwandan, said.

Ugandan money changers at the Katuna border said there is an increase of the Rwandan currency in circulation.

The Katuna Town Council chairperson, Mr Elvis Nzeirwe, asked Ugandans to follow the rules to sustain the revived cross-border trade.

The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) manager for south western region, Mr Peter Gikwiyakare, asked the business community at the borders to do their work professionally and understand the customs systems to avoid being interrupted.

“Uganda Revenue Authority has collected about Shs480m in the last two months of Gatuna border reopening. I appeal to the business community to respect the customs regulations of either country for the smooth running of their business,” Mr Gikwiyakare said.

On Saturday, Uganda High Commission officials in Kigali-Rwanda led by the charge d’affaires, Ms Anne Katusiime, visited Katuna Town and spoke to the business community, immigration, customs, and security officials.

“The Uganda High Commission staff in Kigali-Rwanda have embarked on a tour of the three major border points between Uganda and Rwanda which include Mirama Hills, Katuna and Cyanika with an objective of encouraging the traders to use the opportunity of the reopened borders to do business to improve their economic status. The remaining challenges of failure to allow local agricultural produce to cross from either country in big quantities shall soon be solved,” Ms Katusiime said.