Uganda-Rwanda begin talks to end diplomatic row

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Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Minister of Internal Affairs Maj. Gen J.J Odongo and Attorney General William Byaruhanga are in Kigali for the start of talks to end the diplomatic row between Uganda and Rwanda.

The talks follow a pact signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda last month in Luanda, Angola, to ease the tensions between the two countries.

According to Bank of Uganda, between March and July 2018,  Uganda exported USD 88 million worth of goods to Rwanda (that is formal trade). This dropped to only USD 6.5 million in March and July 2019, the period the border between the two countries has been closed.

The meeting raises optimism of brokering peace between the two countries although some experts insist the problem between Kigali and Kampala is political and can only be ended by the two men leading both countries.

Dr Enock Twinoburyo, a Ugandan economist based in Kigali said he hopes the talks will yield benefits because there is an MoU in place already to act as a guide.

 “Both sides remain very expectant though uncertainty hovers over short term,” he said. “The economies are too interlinked socially and economically, that it makes sense to restore parity.    The bigger issue and challenge, is stickiness of political standoff which over and above may prevail over economics and social aspects.”

The closure of the border has seen trade between the two countries almost ground to zero.

More impact was felt by ordinary people close to the border from either side. These people trade informally by crossing to either side using footpaths. These had also been closed. The Kabale and Kisoro area, according to leaders there, send Irish potatoes worth 4 billion Shillings annually to Rwanda. This transaction was interrupted this year.

Socially, people were denied opportunity to cross from either side to bury their friends or relatives. Children from Rwanda had been stopped from crossing over to attend school at Uganda side.

Dr Isaac Shinyekwa, a research fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre, has argued the problem between Uganda and Rwanda is known by Museveni and Kagame. They themselves should solve it.

As a gesture of goodwill, last week Uganda released and sent home Rwandans that had been detained in Uganda.

Titi