On Monday, March 7, Rwanda will fully reopen its land borders with Uganda, Burundi and the DR Congo.
The decision was reached during the cabinet meeting that convened on Friday, March 4 with an agenda of assessing the existing Covid-19 measures, among other issues.
“Land borders shall reopen starting Monday March 7th but people must be subject to random Covid-19 testing by the Ministry of Health upon entry,” read the meeting communique issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
On January 31, Rwanda reopened its land borders with Uganda, including the Gatuna-Katuna three years after the border was closed. However, it was partially reopened as mainly cargo was allowed to cross the border.
The announcement followed a meeting between President Paul Kagame and Lt. General Kainerugaba Muhoozi, Uganda’s Commander of Land Forces (UPDF) and Special Presidential Advisor (Special Operations to President Museveni, in Kigali, to discuss “Rwanda’s concerns and practical steps needed to restore the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda.”
“The government of Rwanda remains committed to ongoing efforts to resolve pending issues between Rwanda and Uganda and believes that today’s announcement will contribute positively to the speedy normalisation of relations between the two countries,” said a statement by the government of Rwanda.
Before Lt. Gen Muhoozi’s visit to Kigali, President Kagame had received Uganda’s envoy to the UN, Ambassador Adonija Ayebare, who reportedly had a message from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Relations with Uganda deteriorated in 2017 when Rwanda accused its neighbour of harbouring groups that are hostile to Kigali and torturing innocent Rwandans on its soil. The Rwanda-Uganda border was closed since early 2019.
The border post has been dormant for almost three years after Kigali issued a travel advisory in protest against the harassment, abduction, illegal detention and torture of Rwandan nationals in Uganda since 2018.
Recently, Gen Muhoozi tweeted that he would return to Rwanda for more talks. “After a long discussion with my uncle President Kagame, this morning we have agreed that I return to Kigali in the coming days to sort out all outstanding issues between Uganda and Rwanda,” the First Son tweeted four days ago.
The reopening of the border was cheered and welcomed by Rwandans, including traders, students, and people with family members on the other side of the border.
Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo had been open while the former’s frontier with the eastern Tanzania had been closed, as per the Covid-19 East African protocols.
On the other hand, Rwanda’s Southern border with Burundi had been closed for almost seven years, after the sister nations’ relations soured in 2015.
Rwanda had expressed concerns about increasing reports of unrest and violence targeting unarmed Rwandan civilians residing in Burundi, hence closing the border to avoid more effects.
However, efforts to mend ties have been underway, and most recently was the visit of Burundian justice minister in Rwanda.