After a three-year closure, Rwanda reopens its Uganda border

After a three-year lockdown, Rwanda reopened its land border with Uganda on Monday, signaling a warming in relations between the two East African neighbors.

The border was blocked in February 2019 as political tensions between Kigali and Kampala escalated, threatening to bring two-way trade to a halt.

Rwanda declared last week that it will reopen the border as a move toward mending ties that had been strained by opposing charges of espionage, kidnappings, and meddling.

It came after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s strong son Muhoozi Kainerugaba met Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali.

The main Gatuna crossing point, known in Uganda as Katuna, reopened at midnight, with traffic expected to pick up during the day.

During their respective countries’ political struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, Museveni and Kagame were close allies, but their relationship quickly deteriorated.

Rwanda closed the border after accusing Uganda of kidnapping Rwandan people and assisting rebels aiming to overthrow President Paul Kagame.

Uganda, for its part, accused Rwanda of spying and killing two individuals during a 2019 foray into Ugandan territory, which Kigali denied.

Both countries indicated last week that they believed the reopening of the border would help normalize relations.

According to World Bank estimates, Ugandan exports to Rwanda in 2018 were more than $211 million, primarily cement and food, while Rwanda sold $13 million worth of commodities to Uganda.

In 2019, trade fell precipitously, with the Covid issue exacerbating the problem.

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