Rwanda & Uganda in high-level talks over trade and Rebels

Museveni with Kagame at Cyril Ramaphosa #Inauguration 2019 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane, Pretoria.

High-level talks to resolve the row between Uganda and Rwanda are going on with the key principals President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, looking at a permanent solution to the problem.

 As these negotiations continue, the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Co-operatives, Amelia Kyambadde, has advised traders to look for other market options. Describing the Rwanda issue as “serious”, Kyambadde yesterday told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre that almost five months since Rwanda closed the Gatuna border point, Uganda has lost about $200m (about sh740b) in terms of trade export business with Rwanda.

“We are negotiating with them. They are our neighbors, and we cannot run away from that. The Rwanda issue is a serious one. There are talks at a high political level. Let us leave it to our principals (presidents Museveni and Kagame). It will be resolved, but my advice for now is that traders look at other options,” she said.

Kyambadde said the Government had advised traders to exploit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) option, but the Ebola outbreak in that country has complicated the situation for traders. She noted that Rwanda has also imposed a myriad of restrictions on traders who want to ferry cargo through Mirama border post. Since February, Rwanda has not allowed Ugandan cargo to enter the country, on the pretext that Katuna border is under reconstruction.

Rwanda has also barred its nationals from crossing into Uganda. The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) executive director, Gideon Badagawa, recently told journalists that they have written to Museveni, quantifying the losses incurred by Ugandan traders due to the border closure. Kyambadde yesterday also revealed that the African Continental Free Trade Area framework, which will open all African Union member states to Ugandan goods, has been finalized.

The Pan African Free Trade market will have a total of 1.3 billion people, including a growing middle class and a total GDP of $2.2 trillion, according to the minister. Co-operatives Kyambadde has also set a two-year target for technocrats to revive the defunct Uganda Cooperative Bank.

“As soon as the President assents to the Co-operative Amendment Bill, 2016, the revival of the co-operative bank will be done within two years. That is the target,” she said.

Parliament passed the Co-operative Amendment Bill, 2016 in May this year. However, the President is yet to assent to it. The Co-operative Amendment Bill provides for the revitalization of the Uganda Co-operative Bank, which was closed in 1999 over insolvency.

Kyambadde also briefed the media on the forthcoming International Co-operative Day celebrations at Wakiso district headquarters, scheduled for July 6. There are 19,718 co-operative societies in the country.

Leonard Okello, the executive director of UHURU Institute, said the Government should recognize the major flaws in the closure and liquidation process of the Co-operative Bank and provide the needed funds to revitalize it.