The laboring engine of the heavy commercial truck slows down as it nears the borderline of Gatuna,Rwanda’s border post with Uganda, but continues to exude a dull explosive sound. It joins other trucks in the queue. It is joined by others. The pungent smoke they all produce twirls indolently into and consumed in the verdant wooden hills and the teagrowing valleys that surround Gatuna border post.
As the trucks’ chugging continues, parked, their drivers go to the Immigration and Rwanda Revenue Authority offices to have some of their papers processed and stamped; in about 45 minutes they will continue with their journey. This Gatuna Border Post now operates 24/7, Rusumo for 16 hours and Nemba, 18 hours.
The reduction of red-tape and the harrowing paperwork at border posts are some of the many benefits that have come to symbolize and be embraced as a result of Rwanda joining the East African Community seven years ago.
Marking the EAC Week
Therefore, as Rwanda marks the East African Week, 17th-21st November, under the theme; “EAC Regional Integration: Benefits & Opportunities, ”it is important to reflect on whether the principles of EAC of promoting a people-centered and market-driven cooperation is translating into reality and what Rwandans and other people living and working in Rwanda have to say about the integration process.
People from different EAC countries, professions and occupations have come to embrace and even advocate for deeper integration after experiencing the different benefits and spotting opportunities in the East African Community; traders, transporters, professionals, investors and a plethora of other categories; albeit at different levels.
The activities during the week will involve, interaction with the media and the public, breakfast meeting with the business community, public lecture at Universities, field visits to assess implementation of EAC projects and programmes.
We do experience the changes
Yusuf Oadara, a Ugandan truck driver plying the Mombasa-Malaba-Gatuna-Kigali route, says their occupation has been made a lot easy with the removal of certain requirements.
“First of all, unlike before, the Gatuna border post is open 24hours. The cargo-dwelling time at the border has drastically reduced as long as one has the necessary documents. My client employs clearing agents who process the transaction documents even before the truck leaves the country where goods have been obtained.