Uganda, Rwanda, sued over border closure

The border closure followed months of rising acrimony between Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni
Rwanda, Uganda sued in regional court for feud related trade losses
Rwandan president Paul Kagame (L) and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hold a press conference after their meeting at the State House in Entebbbe, Uganda, on March 25, 2018. (Photo by Michele Sibiloni / AFP)

Three civil society groups in Uganda have filed a lawsuit against the governments of Rwanda and Uganda in the East African Court of Justice over the continued border closure between the two countries. The closure – now in its fourth month, has resulted in financial losses not only for the two governments, but also for local businesses.
In February, the government of Rwanda closed the border posts of Gatuna-Katuna in Kabale district and Cyanika in Kisoro district.  The border posts remain closed.

Three regional civil society organizations – including the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade information and negotiations Institute – say they filed a suit on June 21. The lawsuit asks the court to issue a permanent injunction against the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to keep them from closing the border posts between the countries and ensure the free movement of people and trade.

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Assan Nsimiraho has been doing cross-border business for ten years, dealing in beans, peas and cassava flour exported to Rwanda. He says alternative routes offered by Rwanda were also affected by the border closure, such as areas in the Kabale district affiliated to Gatuna-Katuna border post.

Nsimiraho says they have been denied permission to collect their goods.

In June, Rwanda re-opened the border and allowed trucks passage for 12 days.

According to the Ugandan Ministry of Trade and Industry, since the closure in February, Uganda’s exports to Rwanda have been down from $660 million to about $203 million. Rwanda also reports a loss of about $104 million.

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Amelia Kyambadde, Uganda’s minister for trade and industry says the government has not responded to the lawsuit as officials discuss what she describes as a complicated matter.

“I would advise Ugandans to look for other routes, Kyambadde adds.

Gatuna-Katuna border post has historically been the major crossing point for cargo trucks and cross- border trade, both formal and informal, heading to Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, trucks allowed into Rwanda are only those for transit goods to Burundi and the DRC.

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