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Rwanda reopens Uganda border after three-year closure

Rwanda on Monday reopened its land border with Uganda after a three-year closure, signalling a thaw in relations between the two East African neighbours.

The frontier had been closed in February 2019 as political tensions between Kigali and Kampala spiralled, leading to the near collapse of two-way trade.

Rwanda announced its decision to reopen the border last week as a step towards repairing ties which had been soured by various rival accusations of espionage, abductions and meddling.

It followed a visit to Kigali by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s powerful son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, where he met Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

The main Gatuna crossing post, known as Katuna in Uganda, officially reopened at midnight, and traffic was expected to gather pace throughout the day.

Museveni and Kagame were close allies in the 1980s and 1990s during struggles for power in their respective countries, but relations turned deeply hostile.

Rwanda shut the frontier after accusing Uganda of abducting its citizens and supporting rebels seeking to topple Kagame.

Uganda in turn accused Rwanda of spying as well as killing two men during an incursion into Ugandan territory in 2019 — a claim Kigali denied.

Both governments said last week they hoped the border reopening could contribute to the normalisation of ties.

Before the closure, Ugandan exports to Rwanda — predominantly cement and food — totalled more than $211 million in 2018, according to World Bank figures, while Rwanda exported $13 million worth of goods to Uganda.

Trade plummeted in 2019, with the situation further exacerbated by the Covid crisis.


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