Cleared cargo belonging to Uganda is at the mercy of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
The cargo is stranded at Gatuna in Northern Rwanda as boarder disputes between the two countries get ugly.
Now at day six since border closure, the Uganda Revenue Authority revealed that it was taken by surprise by Rwanda’s action, and that pleas to Kigali to find a quick solution to the crisis went unheeded.
A March 2 letter by the Commissioner for Customs at URA Dicksons Kateshumbwa to his Rwandan counterpart revealed the scale of the crisis.
“Whereas the rationale and spirit behind the decision is appreciated, it would have been more appropriate to undertake the measure as a joint decision, considering the fact that the affected borders are OSBPs (one-stop border posts) where either side is interdependent on the other,” said Kateshumbwa.
“Besides, a decision of this nature would ideally give ample time to the stakeholders to enable adjustments to be done so as to comply and in the case of customs to rationalize manpower so that we facilitate trade smoothly. In this particular case, the implementation of the decision was done on the very day of notification.”
Mr Kateshumbwa said most of the stranded cargo had already been cleared under the Single Customs Territory.
“We have a clogged Gatuna border post with 10 Rwanda registered trucks, 49 Uganda registered trucks, 37 Kenya registered trucks and nine Burundi registered trucks all carrying mixed goods,” he said, adding that some of the trucks are carrying perishables while 17 of the Kenyan registered trucks are carrying petroleum products.
“Therefore, considering the potential risk of these highly flammable products as well as the potential deterioration of value in the case of perishables it is prudent that we unclog the border by facilitating the consignments that are already at the border having arrived before the notice,” added Kateshumbwa.
“Whereas we have put this suggestion forward since Thursday, February 28, we are yet to receive a positive response.”
Meanwhile, police in Kampala told a press briefing on Monday that they were closely monitoring the security situation at the border.
The matter is also believed to have featured in a Cabinet meeting in Kampala on Monday afternoon.
Rwanda closed the border at Gatuna to commercial traffic from Uganda on Thursday and at the same time, “strongly advised Rwanda citizens against travelling to Uganda.”
Multiple sources, however, say that Rwandan citizens were blocked from crossing the border into Uganda by immigration officials in all border posts.
The actions have re-ignited debate on the state of the relations between the countries, which have been on the decline since 2017.
President Paul Kagame revealed that his problems with Uganda were being fomented in South Africa, where anti-government forces have been operating.