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As relations with Uganda improve, Rwanda plans to reopen its border

FILE PHOTO: Rwandan president Paul Kagame addresses delegates at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

Even as tensions between the central African neighbours increase, driven by suspicions of spying and backing for each other’s dissidents, Rwanda will reopen a border crossing with Uganda that was closed nearly three years ago on Monday.

The news: Rwanda had accused Uganda of assisting rebel groups plotting to overthrow the Kigali administration, while Kampala accused Rwanda of conducting unlawful spy operations in Uganda.

  • Rwanda’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Friday that the country’s common border would reopen on January 31.
  • “Rwanda has taken note that there is a process to solve issues raised by Rwanda, as well as commitments made by the government of Uganda to address remaining obstacles,” it said in the statement.
  • Various attempts to re-establish normal relations and open the border, including Angola’s mediation efforts, had yielded little.
  • The region’s commerce relations were significantly impacted by the border shutdown in March 2019.

What’s important: Rwanda relies on a transport corridor that stretches from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa through Kenya and Uganda for its foreign trade. The same road also transports commodities from Rwanda to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern provinces.

  • Mutual suspicions and animosity have existed between Rwanda and Uganda for a long time, owing in part to historical ties between the two countries’ politics and security.
  • Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame, grew up in Uganda and took part in the guerrilla war that brought Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, 77, to power.
  • The decision to reopen the border came after a meeting last week in Kigali between Kagame and Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a military major who the public believes is preparing to succeed his long-serving father.
  • A return to normal trade between the two countries’ border crossings might provide a much-needed boost to regional economies damaged by COVID-19 containment efforts.
  • Along with Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda are members of the East African Community, a regional economic group.
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