Three Ugandan cargo trailers that have been held up in Rwanda since early last month have been sent back to Kampala with the cargo on board. Each of the three trucks was loaded with 30 tonnes of cement from Hima Cement Limited.
Clement Wasswa, the driver of one of the trailers which belong to Abasi Balinda Transporters Company, said they set off from the Hima factory in Tororo to Rwanda on February 26. He said they first got notification from the customs department of Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) through Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) that the taxes for the entire consignment had been received.
They arrived at Katuna border post on February 27 and were told that the RRA network was off. So there was no way of verifying their goods’ documents. They were advised to use the Mirama Hills border post.
“We arrived at Mirama Hills on Saturday March 2, where we also got stuck for five days along with other three Ugandan trucks loaded with Simba cement from Uganda,” Wasswa said.
All the three trucks paid the road user fees amounting to $152 (about sh560,000) each valid for one month. Wasswa said they were cleared to enter Rwanda via the Mirama Hills border post. The convoy included six cargo trucks, three transporting Simba cement. They were escorted by Rwandan police up to Dubai Port, on the outskirts of Kigali.
The Rwanda Bureau of standards took samples from one bag of cement from each truck for testing to prove whether the consignment conformed to the required standards. After weeks of waiting, on Monday last week, they were told to offload the cement to the area warehouse. No sooner had they offloaded the cement than they were told to re-load it and return the entire consignment to Uganda.
The trucks returned to Uganda last week with the cement and are parked at Nakawa.
“Our colleagues driving the three trucks loaded with Simba cement are still in Kigali,” Wasswa said.
A manager at the Hima Cement Company, who declined to be identified, said they did not know why their consignment was rejected and sent back. Drivers complain Byron Kinene, the chairman of Regional Lorry Drivers and Transporters Association, condemned the action by the Rwandan government.
He said transporters were struggling with bank loans used for purchase of such transit cargo trucks and should not be made to go through such frustrations by a neighboring state. Vincent Seruma, the URA spokesperson, said for such consignments, the cargo remains under customs control until the bond is cancelled.
He said the owner of the cargo will have to apply for the change of the regime so that the cargo can be taken to another market. Since February, the Rwandan authorities have been blocking Ugandan products and barring its citizens from entering Uganda.
Early last month, Uganda protested Rwanda’s action. Foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa said Rwanda had barred Ugandan exports, which had grossly affected traders in the two countries.
“What is happening on the ground, however, is that the export of Ugandan goods to Rwanda has been prohibited by Rwanda authorities,” he said.
“Goods from Rwanda and Rwandan registered trucks are not being allowed to cross from Rwanda into Uganda by the Rwandan authorities. Rwanda has introduced an export permit system for those that intend to export goods to Uganda.
“This is a technical and non-tariff barrier to trade, for which there has been no successful applicant. In effect, this is a trade embargo on bilateral trade with Uganda,” the minister added.