Rwandan troops blocked about 200 of their citizens from crossing into Uganda to attend a Christian pilgrimage, a Ugandan government official said Monday, amid a spat between the neighbours.
The Rwandans were seeking to attend the annual Martyrs Day commemoration in Uganda but were turned back, the official said.
“More than 200 Rwandans who were coming to attend Martyrs Day were stopped by the military from crossing to Uganda and sent back,” Janinah Busingye, an official at Katuna, the border town with Rwanda, told AFP Monday.
“This is how bad the situation has become between Uganda and Rwanda. People’s right to worship is now being interferred with.”
She said pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi had been using the same crossing to enter Uganda via Rwanda, and had not encountered any problems.
One 66-year-old pilgrim, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP she travelled in a large group to the border but was denied entry.
“We were told that we cannot cross into Uganda for the sake of our security,” she told AFP.
Martyrs Day on June 3 commemorates the execution of 45 converts to Christianity in the 1880s.
Their death was ordered by the then king of Buganda, which is now part of Uganda.
They included 22 of his pages, who had converted to Catholicism and were burned alive on June 3 1886. They were beatified by the Holy See in 1920 and canonised in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
Several hundred Rwandans typically travel to Uganda for the event, tourism figures show.
But Rwanda closed its border with Uganda in February, freezing a key regional trade route, as hostilities between President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni boiled over.
Tensions between the two veteran leaders, once close allies, have been rising for months as the two countries trade accusations of political interference and spying.
Rwandan traders have been prevented by force from crossing the border into Uganda, where many work during the day.
In late May, Ugandan police accused Rwandan soldiers of entering the country and killing two men but Rwanda said the incident happened on its soil.
Rwanda’s state minister for East African affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, said he was not aware of the specific case involving pilgrims but told AFP:
“What I know is that our travel advisory notice is still in force for all Rwandan citizens travelling to Uganda”.
Museveni did not attend the commemorations, which took place at a shrine at Namugongo, just outside the capital Kampala.
He was represented by Vice President, Edward Sekandi.
Rwanda’s Catholic Archbishop, Antoine Kambanda, conducted a mass Monday afternoon for pilgrims who failed to reach Uganda.
The service took place at St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Kigali, a church named after one of the martyrs.
Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality
Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.
Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.
The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.
The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.
Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.
The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.
Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement
Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.
The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.
“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.
AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.
Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad
Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.
The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.
The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine.
President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights.