There is huge excitement at the Uganda-Rwanda border of Gatuna after it was reopened for travellers to cross into either country. The border had been partially reopened at the end of January but only cargo vehicles could be allowed to cross.
Travellers especially from Rwanda had got excited following the announcement of the first reopening but only to be told they could not cross to Uganda due to some diplomatic challenges that were still pending between the two neighbouring countries. However, last week the government of Rwanda announced that the border would be opened this week and all those wishing to travel to Uganda are free to move.
Covid-19 testing at the border
The government of Rwanda emphasised that passengers maybe subjected to random Covid-19 testing upon entry. In addition to this, the government also requires all passengers leaving the country to be fully vaccinated and this also applies to those want to access public places. Those attending events must present negative Covid-19 test results taken within 48 hours before the meeting.
A relief to tourists
Since the border was closed 3 years ago, it has been very difficult for tourists to cross into either country. There are many tourists who cross from Rwanda to Uganda especially those wishing to trek the endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is located close to this border. This is basically because the distance from Kigali to Bwindi is shorter compared to that from Kampala and therefore tourists take less time to reach the park when coming from Rwanda. The reopening therefore presents a huge relief to both tourists and tour operators in both countries.
The volume of trade between Rwanda and Uganda was really high before the closure of the border with the two countries exchanging goods including agricultural products, merchandise and labour. People living near the border from both countries were one of the most affected when trade was halted since it was so easy to do business across the border. The reopening is therefore warmly welcomed by the business community in both countries who are hoping to resume trade and try to compensate for the losses suffered during the closure.
Reconnecting families and friends
Rwanda and Uganda are indeed sister countries with many families having members either side of the border. This is due to historical factors like wars which forced many people to cross especially from Rwanda seeking safety. This included the Rwanda civil war of 1959 and the recent genocide of 1994 which saw millions of Rwandans fleeing into neighbouring countries including Uganda. Since then, many families had settled and multiplied in Uganda while some of their members decided to go back to Rwanda after the genocide had ended. These keep travelling to visit their relatives in either country though the closure of the border had brought such relations to a painful halt. With the reopening, such families are excited to visit their relatives once again and resume their normal relationships.
A positive sign towards normalising political ties
The decision by the government of Rwanda to reopen the Gatuna border with Uganda has brought back hope to the citizens of both countries that political tensions between the two governments are coming to an end. This was the major factor that had led to the closure of the with both governments accusing each other of several political grounds. Rwanda was accusing Uganda of arresting, detaining and torturing its citizens without trail while on the other hand Uganda accused Rwanda of espionage. However, early this year the two governments attempted to bring such tensions to an end with envoys from Uganda government including Lt.Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a son to President Museveni meeting President Kagame in Kigali. The meetings appeared to have been fruitful when Kigali announced that the Gatuna border would be reopened following the discussions between the leaders.