June 2019

June started as tensions still persist at various border points with Uganda, such as Gatuna and Kyanika town. At the start of this month, Rwanda re-opened the Gatuna border point for twelve days to allow cargo trucks from Uganda into the country. However, the movement of people and other commodities from Uganda to Rwanda and vice versa is still restricted and military presence is still rife in the region.

Key issues as per the current state of affairs in the country include: political and economic disagreements between Rwanda and Uganda, the killing of civilians, and the closed border points, especially at Gatuna.

The killing of civilians, both Ugandans and Rwandans, can be seen as a cause and a consequence of the disagreements between the two countries. On one hand, Rwanda has accused Uganda of killing and mistreating its nationals in the country. On the other hand, as a result of the closed borders, civilians have been killed while attempting to cross the border illegally, and others who attempted to run away from the military have also been shot. An example of this would be the death of Ms. Elizabeth Mukarugwiza, a pregnant woman who attempted to cross the border from Rwanda into Uganda and who was chased and killed by the military in the process.

As the tension still persists, the future may grow dimmer for legal cross border trade in the regions. Illegal cross-border trade may ensue where civilians may create illegal paths and walkways across the borders to sell and buy commodities. This is an impending possibility considering the necessity of basic goods such as food and the need to earn an income, creating an unnecessary risk for traders. Illegal enterprises also contribute little to the economy of the involved countries due to tax avoidance.

It is important to restore normal activities between the two border regions in order to avoid unintended consequences of illegal trade and create a thriving cross-border economy. By working together to solve their grievances, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni need to bring border points such as Gatuna back to life and ensure a free flow of goods and people.

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