A diplomatic feud between Rwanda and Uganda last year brought to a halt most cross-border movements between the two neighbouring countries.
Several diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have yielded little leading to a suit against the two governments by three civil society organizations.
The East African sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATIN-Uganda), and Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) went to a regional court to seek end to the border closure that has led to loss of millions of dollars in trade.
The East African Court of Justice has now summoned the Attorney General of Rwanda and a Ugandan lawyer Steven Kalali to appear in court for the hearing of the border closure case.
According to the summons, the Registrar of East African Court of Justice Yufnalis Okubo is summoning both parties to appear for the hearing which will take place on September 14, 2020, via video conferencing.
“Please take note that if there is no appearance on your part, the court will proceed to hear the case and make necessary orders in your absence not withstanding”, reads the summons in part.
The notice further indicates that the parties will be appearing before a three-member panel of Judges comprising the Principal Judge Monica Mugenyi, Audace Ngiye and Dr Charles Nyawello.
On February 27, 2019, Rwanda closed its borders blocking heavy trucks from Uganda to allegedly expedite construction works at the Rwandan side of the Gatuna border. Truck drivers were advised to use the Kagitumba border via Mirama Hills.
Recently, in an interview with The EastAfrican, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said there was little progress in ending the bilateral conflict.
“Let me summarise it by saying it has not gotten worse. It is where it was at that time or it has got better. I think in a situation where there is not so much good news I think that is good news, that nothing got worse. We can only expect better,” he said.
Rwanda also advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda claiming that Ugandan authorities were abducting, arbitrarily arresting, jailing, torturing and illegally deporting Rwandans.
The Kigali administration accused Uganda of allegedly hosting, sponsoring and facilitating terrorist groups more specifically the Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda -FDLR that have declared war on Rwanda.
Following the closure, Kalali sued the government of Rwanda in the East African Court of Justice.
Kalali argued that the border closure contravenes the East African Community Treaty and the Common Market Protocol which allows free movement of people, goods and services across the bloc. Rwanda is a signatory to the treaty.
He also wondered why the decision to close the borders was so abrupt and taken with no prior communication to traders and other route users. He added that the act of continuously blocking Rwanda nationals from moving freely in and out of Uganda undermines good governance, security and rule of law.Kalali also noted that the actions of Rwanda have infringed on the rights and freedoms of its people and those in neighboring countries and caused financial loss to hundreds of traders.
Subsequently, he asked the East African Court of Justice to declare the border closure illegal.
In March 2020, the East African Court of Justice rejected an application by the government of Rwanda that was filed by their State Attorney Nicholas Ntarugera seeking for more time to file additional evidence in this matter.
The application was rejected based on several illegalities key of them is that the application that was meant to benefit Rwanda filed in the name of the Ugandan applicant who the Judges ruled that it was wrong and amounts to an abuse of court process and therefore inexcusable.
Last year, President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame held various meetings to try and resolve the issue of the border closure.
However, the talks suffered a setback because of the Covid-19 pandemic.