President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, yesterday, officially flagged off the reconstruction works for the Kigali-Mbarara highway.
At a colourful event, held at Katuna, on the Ugandan side of the border, the two Heads of State ceremonially sunk the bulldozer blade into the ground to mark the beginning of the works to be completed in about 4 years.
The two Presidents highlighted the importance of the road that links several countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and DR Congo to the Mombasa Port, noting that once complete, it will not only facilitate the movement of goods and people, but also help strengthen ties between Uganda and Rwanda.
The project is financed by the European Union.
President Kagame urged the citizens of both countries to ensure that, once complete, the road is properly maintained.
“We should be able to maintain this road ourselves and make sure it lasts and continues to serve us very well. I am sure we are not expecting that we will be going back to the EU to provide more funds to maintain it,” he said.
“The citizens of our countries will have a good asset in this road. They should put it to good use for our socio-economic development”.
President Museveni gave a brief history of the road, from the time it was first tarmacked in 1963.
“I am glad that the EU kept its promise and, most especially, I am happy to know that they are going to work on the weigh bridge here, work on the no-man’s land as well as the Gatuna-Kigali road. It’s a double score for us,” Museveni said.
“Mbarara-Katuna is one twin and Gatuna-Kigali is the other twin, so the people of Uganda and Rwanda have had twins today – we are Ssalongos (Luganda for a father of twins),” he added.
Museveni called on the people of both countries to take advantage of the new road for their economic benefit, adding that it had been designed to last more than 20 years.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Uganda, Roberto Ridolfi, said the road will go a long way in promoting regional integration with the EAC as well as other regional blocs, like COMESA.
“These two projects will greatly contribute to the reduction of transportation costs, unlock local production of small scale producers of the region and improve road safety,” Ridolfi said, adding that it will also facilitate regional integration and socio-economic development at both the national and regional level.
Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Eng. Albert Nsengiyumva, and his Ugandan counterpart (Transport and Works) Eng. Ibrahim Byandala, gave specifications of the two sections, which will be linked by a single axle weigh bridge and a one-stop border at Gatuna.
The Kigali-Gatuna section stretches 78km, while the Katuna-Mbarara section covers 154km.
Shortly after commissioning the road works, President Kagame and his family proceeded to Uganda, where they will be hosted by President Museveni for a four- day private visit.