Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday accused Uganda of erecting non-tariff barriers to trade in the region, which are detrimental to integration.
Responding to a question by Ellen Giokos, a CNN business reporter, at the African CEO Forum in Kigali on whether the closure of the Gatuna border point was impacting economic integration in the East African Community, he cited past incidents in which Ugandan authorities have held goods in transit over flimsy reasons.
“Mineral containers from Kigali to Mombasa were held in Uganda for five months…Kenyans who bought milk from Rwanda had containers held in Uganda for days until tens of thousands of litres were spoilt. Politics is behind this rather than anything else,” he said.
Last year, Ugandan authorities impounded two trucks belonging to Mineral Supply Africa transporting 40 tonnes of tantalum and tin valued at about $750,000 while on their way to Mombasa, claiming that the transporters were using forged tracking certificates.
The trucks were later cleared and allowed to continue their journey to Mombasa after three months.
President Kagame also told the delegates, among them Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde, that Uganda had imprisoned hundreds of Rwandans and denying them consular services.
“We have our people imprisoned in Uganda in places that are not known. We have brought this up with Uganda for the past two years and are getting nowhere,” he said.
“We have three border points that connect us with Uganda and it is only one that is not working at full capacity, it is at 20, 30 per cent because of construction works, and we hope that it in the next few weeks it should be working.”
Kigali and Kampala have also traded accusations of espionage. Rwanda has also accused Uganda of supporting rebel groups and dissidents opposed to the Rwandan government.
Rwanda has barred its citizens from crossing into Uganda, citing possible arrest, torture and deportation.
But President Yoweri Museveni in a letter to the Rwandan leader last week, denied the claims.
Bus companies that operate between the two countries have significantly cut their trips due to a reduction in the number of Rwandan travellers.
On its part, Kampala says that Rwanda is the one that imposed trade barriers, affecting the flow of goods in a key transport channel that runs from Mombasa through Uganda, serving both countries and others such as Burundi, Eastern Congo and South Sudan.
“What is wrong is for Rwandan agents to try to operate behind the government of Uganda. I get a lot of stories, but I will never raise them unless I have confirmed them,” President Museveni said in his letter to President Kagame.