Construction works on the Rwandan side of the proposed Gatuna One-Stop Border Post will be completed by the end of next month, a top official has said.
“We are in the final touches,” Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, the minister of state for transport, told The New Times on Monday. “We hope the remaining work will be completed by the end of next month.”
In March, the Government closed Gatuna border to heavy vehicles allowing only light traffic to use the crossing as construction works began in earnest.
Workers at the proposed Gatuna One-Stop Border Post in Gicumbi District on Monday. Photos by Emmanuel Kwizera.
However, there are concerns that completion of the Rwandan side of the border infrastructure won’t necessarily mean that the new facility will start serving its purpose immediately because not much progress has been made on the Ugandan side.
“Completion of works is one thing but functioning is another altogether,” Uwihanganye said. “For One-Stop Border Post to function, it has to be both sides. So, what about the other side?”
The project is being funded by the Government of Rwanda, with local firm NPD Cotraco the contractor.
A man uses a compactor to level the ground at the construction site on Monday.
When The New Times visited the border post on Monday, workers were mostly involved with the finishing aspects such as levelling the compound, fixing the drainage system, planting grass, among others.
A site supervisor told this newspaper that the remaining work may take about three weeks to complete.
“I would say we are over 90 per cent done,” the engineer said on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorised to speak to the media on behalf of his employers.
The project is estimated to cost up to Rwf15 billion on completion.
Works on Ugandan side in limbo
Meanwhile, across the border in Uganda, there is little hope that a similar facility – which is supposed to ease movement of goods and services – will be concluded any time soon.
In February, during the tour of border posts of the East African Community partner sates, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) expressed frustration at the stalling of works on the Ugandan side of the Gatuna border.
The regional legislators were on routine inspection of trade routes across the bloc.
The works on the Ugandan side of the Gatuna border (known in Uganda as Katuna), the regional legislators were told, stalled after the funder, World Bank, pulled out of the project over shoddy work.
It later emerged that infrastructure that was put up had begun developing cracks.
Gatuna lies on what is known as the Northern Corridor and links Rwanda to Kenya’s seaport of Mombasa, through Uganda.
The concept of the One-Stop Border Post was initiated to reduce barriers to trade and ease movement of people.
At an OSBP, passengers and cargo stop just once for crossing formalities to exit one partner state and enter the other.
Under this arrangement, all procedures and processing of documentation for goods and passengers are carried out in a single clearance hall for exit and entry, as opposed to separate processing and approvals that are currently done separately at the Gatuna border.
Rwanda has at least one-stop border post with each of its four neighbours, and once the proposed Gatuna facility is up and running it will be the second such crossing with Uganda, after Kagitumba.
One-stop border posts significantly cut the time passengers and cargo spend during clearance at border crossings, which boosts trade and efficiency in clearance procedures.
Construction works on the Gatuna One-Stop Border Post have attracted criticism from the Ugandan government, which claimed that this was a convenient excuse to close the border.
However, Rwanda rejected those claims and instead advised truck drivers and other motorists to use the two other major crossings with Uganda – Kagitumba and Cyanika – pending completion of works on Gatuna border. Gatuna remains open to light traffic.