Kampala, Uganda (AFP) – Rwandan authorities announced Friday the reopening of the border with Uganda, ending nearly three years of fighting that appeared to have hurt economies and raised fears of armed fighting.
The announcement comes after a period of quiet diplomacy during which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sent envoys, including his son, Lieutenant General Muhuzi Kainirugaba, to negotiate with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
Kainrugaba, who leads the infantry, was in Rwanda on Saturday. Earlier in the week, Museveni made major changes to his security services, sacking the head of military intelligence, who had been heavily criticized by Rwanda. This action appears to have appeased his neighbor.
Rwanda first closed its busy Gatuna border crossing in February 2019. Subsequent talks brokered by Angola and Congo seem to have failed to resolve the conflict, forcing Uganda to negotiate privately with Rwanda.
The Rwandan government said the border would officially open on Monday. In a statement, he said he remained committed to efforts to resolve outstanding issues and believed that the declaration “will contribute positively to the speedy normalization of relations between the two countries.”
The announcement caused both countries to rejoice after years of suffering for businesses on both sides of the border, losing markets and other opportunities. And Uganda, which was left without one of the main markets for its exports, appeared to be the biggest loser at the height of what it called an effective trade embargo. In Rwanda, border closures have driven up dry food prices.
“I hope this is real and trade can resume as well,” said Rwandan trader Justin Morenzi, who used to import second-hand clothes from the Ugandan capital but has seen his business crumble under lockdown. “We can start life over and forget the past.”
Tensions between Rwanda and Uganda raised fears of a possible armed conflict after Kagame and Museveni made threatening statements at public events.
Ssuuna reported from Kigali, Rwanda.
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