Katuna, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Despite a few delays, the Uganda-Rwanda border was today re-opened for the first time since February 27, 2019.
Trucks finally crossed from Uganda, and others from Rwanda as officials met most of the day to try and agree on how the border operations will run in light of COVID-19 restrictions.
Preparations are ongoing at Katuna ahead of the official reopening of the Uganda-Rwanda border today after three years of closure.
This morning, our reporter visited Katuna border and saw a scanner from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) registration number UBK 998T positioned on the no man’s land on the Ugandan side, ready for duty.
He also saw a truck registration number UAY 634S parked on the Ugandan’s side waiting to cross to Rwanda.
URN also saw a tent that will host Ugandan health officials who will conduct COVID-19 testing for people crossing the border.
Ugandan customs were also busy preparing to resume work. Flabison Waswa, a truck driver told URN that he was among the first, cleared around 3.00 am.
He has welcomed the border reopening, saying it will ease their access to Rwanda.
Waswa however, expressed concern about the slow progress of the works of upgrading the customs building on the Ugandan side, and the parking yard.
He says that after being cleared he got stuck in the mud until at around 10am.
Kabale and Rukiga district officials led by the LC 5 Chairman, Nelson Nshangabsheija, and Rukiga County MP, Roland Ndyomugyenyi were at Katuna border for the opening.
Rwanda closed its border with Uganda on February 27, 2019, after President, Paul Kagame accused Ugandan authorities of spying on Rwanda, abducting Rwandan nationals,.
He also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents who have declared war on the Kigali administration.
Rwanda then issued a travel advisory to its nationals against traveling to Uganda, saying their safety was not guaranteed.
After months of negotiations, Rwanda announced on January 28th, 2022 the planned reopening of the border.
The announcement came days after the Commander of the Land Forces Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba visited Kigali where he held talks with the president, Kagame on the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Rwandan authorities are however still barring Ugandans from crossing to their country through Katuna in Kabale and Chanika in Kisoro districts despite the border re-opening today, according to travelers themselves and highly placed security sources.
A security official at the border told our reporter on Monday that despite the announcement, there are still many unresolved issues Rwanda is yet to address to enable a smooth flow of people and traffic.
According to an official who requested anonymity, Rwandan nationals are still being blocked from crossing to Uganda. Ugandans are also still being blocked from crossing to Rwanda through Katuna and Chanika.
Only those with Rwandan national identity cards are being allowed to cross to Rwanda from Uganda. The official says that Rwanda is yet to reveal the reasons behind this.
Christine Tushabe, a Ugandan from Bageza sub county, Mubende district was found stuck at the border. She says that she had traveled to cross to Rwanda through Katuna border to accompany her relative for a burial ceremony.
Tushabe however says that despite having all the necessary requirements she was told by Rwandan authorities that no Ugandan is supposed to cross to their country. Tushabe says she was told that only trucks are the ones cleared to cross through Katuna and Chanika borders.
Tushabe says that she was not told the reason. Tushabe says that what is being published in media that the border is fully open is completely different from what is on the ground. She says that she is now stuck since her journey has been frustrating. She wants Rwanda to tell the truth.
Sarafiina Nyiransengimana from Mubende district says that she was cleared to cross to Rwanda to attend the burial of her mother in Kigali but others who were accompanying her have been blocked.
Nyiransengimana says that she is also still at the border wondering what will happen to Ugandans who have been blocked yet were accompanying her.
Abdul Ndilima, a businessman from Kabale town who was going to Kigali to visit his relatives says that despite the glitches which are yet to be solved, he will abide by the orders.
At around 11:30 am, Ugandan officials led by Abel Kagumire Commissioner for Customs in charge of Katuna border and officials from the Immigrations department at Katuna border held a closed-door meeting with Rwandan security authorities at the Rwandan border side of Gatuna. The meeting took about an hour.
When asked what transpired in the meeting, Kagumire says that they were harmonizing on steps to follow while clearing the cargo trucks.
Kagumire says that the meeting did involve discussion about why it is still not easy for Ugandans to freely cross to Rwanda like how it used to be.
wow wow. Thanks to GEN.PAUL KAGAME THE PRESIDENT OF RWANDA,
They should also allow pedestrians to cross the border.