The government has summoned Rwandan envoy to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, to explain the diplomatic standoff at the Uganda-Rwanda border, a government spokesperson announced yesterday.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Uganda Media Centre executive director Ofwono Opondo said the government has also directed Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Ms Olive Woneka, to get an explanation from Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kigali.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited Mr Mugambage to brief Uganda on the temporary [border] closure. We are seeking explanations,” Mr Opondo said.
Tensions were high at the Uganda-Rwanda border throughout Thursday after dozens of cargo trucks from Uganda were blocked by the Rwanda Revenue Authoring (RRA) from entering Rwanda through the Katuna-Gatuna border post.
RRA notified the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in writing that construction works were ongoing on the Gatuna-Kigali highway and diverted cargo trucks to the Mirama Hills-Kagitumba border post, nearly 114kms away.
The truckers, however, had not been notified in writing before that.
Speaking to this newspaper on Thursday evening, Mr Henry Okello Oryem, the State Minister for International Affairs, said much as there are issues between Uganda and Rwanda that warrant day-to-day talks, the situation concerning Kigali’s decision to stop cargo trucks from using the Katuna-Gatuna border post will not escalate any troubles between the two countries. “We talk with Rwanda every day; they have issues with us that they want us to clarify, and we have issues we want to be clarified the other side. So as far as we who handle foreign diplomacy issues are concerned, this is no big issue,” he said.
Beyond the issue of the cargo trucks, Rwandan nationals were reportedly stopped from crossing into Uganda as passenger service vehicles were checked. We could not independently verify this claim.
Speaking earlier on Thursday, Mr Opondo said Rwanda had blocked its nationals, even those who study in Uganda, from crossing over to Uganda.
“Some disturbing information is that Rwandans this morning (Thursday) resorted to panya-routes (shortcuts) to buy food from Uganda and there are reports that the foods were confiscated on arrival is their countryside,” Mr Opondo said on Thursday.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame mid-February confirmed in an interview with The East African newspaper of the Nation Media Group that the two countries have had tensions for two years.
Mr Kagame, who is the current chairman of the East African Community (EAC) after taking over from President Museveni, said what is happening between the two countries are matters that can be resolved but decried the many pronouncements without actions.
“It doesn’t hurt anyone to keep on trying. What hurts is keeping quiet. And, of course, things are not improving because of that, we are not doing much. We have had discussions over this for two years, we can resolve them whether it is egos or just wishing that things should be bad” Mr Kagame said during the interview.
But Mr Opondo said the Rwandan government would not have discussed any diplomatic issues in the media but rather should have raised them using established government structures.