Government allays fears on imports, exports from Uganda

Sezibera: Rwandan borders remain open and we allow entry of people and goods from Uganda, despite misleading reports that they were closed.
Foreign Affairs minister and Government spokesperson, Richard Sezibera, during the press conference at the ministry. / Emmanuel Kwizera

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Richard Sezibera has allayed fears of a significant trade impact that could result from the current impasse with neighbouring Uganda.

Government late last week issued a travel advisory on Rwandans going to Uganda, owing to the spate of illegal detentions of Rwandans and irregular deportations that have been going on for the past two years.

Addressing a news conference on Tuesday morning, Sezibera, who also doubles as the Government spokesperson, said that Rwandan borders remain open and allows entry of people and goods from Uganda, despite what he called misleading reports that the borders were closed.

He however elaborated on the three issues that Rwanda has had with Uganda for the last two years, one of them being the frustration of goods transiting through Uganda and destined for Rwanda.

Rwanda accesses the port of Mombasa in Kenya through Uganda in what is called the Northern Corridor and, according to Sezibera, several trucks headed to or out of Rwanda have been stopped by Ugandan authorities, sometime for weeks, before being released without any explanation.

To minimize any negative consequences, Sezibera said that in partnership with the local private sector and allied ministries, there were ongoing efforts to ensure a steady supply of imports and commodities in the country to avoid shortages or price hikes.

This will ensure that commodities required in Rwanda are available and at regular prices.

He said that they were working on using alternative trade routes and corridors such as Central Corridor via Tanzania.

In regards possible decline of exports to Uganda following the advisory, the government spokesperson said that exports to Uganda are not that high that it could affect economic growth.

The exports are estimated at $19m.

He however said that there is hope that the export trends could pick up once the relations between the two countries are normalised.

He said that the government was also working closely with authorities of areas bordering Uganda who have been importing most supplies from across the border to ensure that their livelihoods are not affected.  

“We hope that these exports will eventually continue to pick up.  If we solve these issues that are hampering free trade, we will be able to trade easily. We cannot have free trade of goods without free movement of people,” he said.

He however said that the welfare of Rwandans was more important in the current situation and would take priority as the two countries continue to engage.

“Goods are important but people are more important,” he said.

Besides sabotaging trade, Rwanda accuses Ugandan authorities of abducting and illegally detaining Rwandans in Uganda, and habouring elements that have the intention of distabilising security in Rwanda.

Sezibera said they have laid down all these complaints before their counterparts but nothing has been done for nearly two years now.

He however said that they would continue to engage to ensure these issues are ironed out and relations normalized.