GATUNA is one of the busiest Rwandan borders. Hundreds of passengers and cargo trucks enter and leave the country through this border post everyday. There is a buzz of activity going on at any one given moment.
Working together, various government bodies operating at the border have put in place coordination mechanisms aimed at guaranteeing efficient, perfect and smooth movement of goods and people.
They include Immigration, Customs, Public warehouse (MAGERWA), Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and the Rwanda National Police.
In an interview with The New Times last Saturday, heads of different departments at the border said they work together in order to facilitate better service delivery for a large number of East African Community (EAC) citizens and other travellers.
“The Immigration department coordinates all management activities at the border”, said the Gicumbi District head of Immigration, Venant Ruterana.
The district head of Immigration further said staff has been beefed up to provide quick immigration services.
“Passengers whose travel documents are discovered to be fake are immediately handed over to the border Police for legal action, while those with non valid travel documents are not granted entry or exit visas but are asked to seek valid ones,” added Ruterana.
He disclosed that the border receives at least 20 buses each carrying not below 60 passengers, in addition to transit goods trucks and private cars, daily.
For efficient tax collection for imported goods, the head of the Customs department James Musoni, said they use new ASYUDA software which enables revenue officials to determine taxes for all types of imported goods, which has reduced the time of clearance.
“The ASYUDA software is internationally recognised and recommended by the International Customs Union,” said Musoni, adding that there is no more congestion at the Customs department because of new pre-clearance tax payment system in place. Under the pre-clearance tax payment system, importers declare goods and pay their taxes in advance.
“Pre-clearance system of tax payment applies only to honest business people intending to import one particular type of goods such as cement,” Musoni said.
He dismissed as “hearsay” recent media reports that there were delays in clearing goods at the border.
The Public warehouse (MAGERWA) works in close coordination with the Customs department.
Jean Pascal Busyete, an employee of MAGERWA says the primary role of their department is to store goods for business people, pending tax clearance.
“We charge storage and handling fees of Rwf.7.5 per Kg of goods stored at MAGERWA, in addition to 18% value added tax (VAT) per day,” said Busyete. He further said traders are issued with a card bearing the type and quantity of their goods, so as to facilitate tax payment.
The Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA) is five years old at Gatuna border, whose primary duty is to regulate movement of livestock including chicken, goats, pigs and all animal and poultry products crossing the border.
According to Jean Paul Muvunyi, RARDA’s Veterinary Service Unit (VSU) officer, all livestock entering or leaving Rwanda are subject to thorough health checks to ascertain their health conditions.
“Imported cattle are subjected to verification of veterinary documents issued at the place of origin, extraction of blood samples to test for foot and mouth diseases, Brucellosis and lung diseases. Those which are found to be infected are denied entry into the country,” said Muvunyi.
He further says his Unit works in close coordination with other border departments and the surrounding local authorities, to curb illegal movement of livestock across the border.
The VSU currently has one newly constructed building which will act as a laboratory for testing animal diseases, after being fully equipped. It has a spacious backyard to serve as an animal quarantine area.
“Animal blood samples are currently tested from Kigali, while the quarantine area is located in Kaniga Sector along the Uganda- Rwanda border,” added Muvunyi.
The VSU also regulates importation of fresh non-pasteurized milk and ghee, which according to Muvunyi “pose a high human health risk.”
The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) is the custodian of environment protection at the border –working hard to enforce a ban on the importation of polythene materials, among other duties.
Philbert Dusabemungu, is an employee with Kayitaba General Trading Company (KGTC), a company contracted by REMA to prevent importation of polythene bags and hazardous gases through the Gatuna border.
He says their company is only three months old at the border, but it has so far impounded and destroyed over three tonnes of polythene bags.
“Our company works hand in hand with all departments at Gatuna border to impound R 12 hazardous gas which has negative effects to the Ozone layer and polythene bags detrimental to the environment,” said Dusabemungu.
According to Dusabemungu, importers of R 12 gas use it to run old types of fridges, where the gas evaporates into the atmosphere and breaks the ozone layer that protects human beings and animals from the heavy heat of the sun’s rays.