The impasse lies in the hands of two leaders –President Museveni and Paul Kagame.
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Ugandan traders are slowly turning to other markets in the region to sell their goods as the border standoff between Kigali and Kampala continues into the third month with no solution in sight.
Rwanda closed all its common border posts with Uganda including; Katuna, Kagitumba, Mirama Hills and Cyanika towards the end of February accusing Uganda of harbouring Rwandan dissidents.
However, Uganda has Uganda has strongly denied these accusations. But as the behind-the-curtains-efforts to re-open the borders continue, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde early last month advised traders to opt for other markets within the East African Community region and beyond in order to survive. It appears the traders listened to the minister’s counsel.
The Independent investigations reveal that companies such as Hima Cement, Mukwano and Roofing Rolling Mills that have been exporting a substantial amount of goods to Kigali are now re-focusing their energy into the internal market as well as Congolese, South Sudanese, Kenyan and Tanzanian markets.
“We are now focusing on increasing our market share locally as well as exports to South Sudan, Tanzania and DR Congo,” a source from one of the companies that has been exporting to Rwanda told The Independent in an interview.
Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda told The Independent on April 24 that exporters are now increasing their reliance on other neighbouring countries in the region for trade as they await Rwanda’s next decision.
“We still have open borders to the north (South Sudan), open borders to the west (DR Congo), and open borders to the east (Kenya),” he said.
Badagawa, however, said though traders have an alternative market in the region “most of our members have contracts to supply Rwanda (and) for as long as the borders remain closed, these businesses are shrinking.”
He said opening up borders is critical for trade and investment across the region.
Issa Ssekito, the spokesperson of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) told The Independent that they are compiling losses from individual traders and will share the details at an appropriate time.
He said all goods destined from Uganda to Rwanda or those that are branded ‘Made in Uganda’ continue to be rejected by Rwandan authorities. Only those goods from Tanzania and Kenya could enter Rwanda.
“If Rwandan authorities discover that goods are coming from Uganda they will order them back or destroy them,” he said, “It is that bad.”
As a result, Ssekito said that some traders are currently buying goods made and branded in other East African countries and selling them in Rwanda.
Interestingly, some of the KACITA members are Rwandan nationals who own shops both in down town Kampala and Kigali.
“You cannot separate who owns what because of the cordial relationship the two countries have been having,” he said.