In late February, 2019, President Museveni was informed about a sensitive meeting which took place at Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) headquarters in Rosoro sector of Gasabo District.
Museveni was told that RPF officials invited Private Sector Federation (PSF) leaders including importers of beer and soft drinks.
Unlike in Uganda where manufacturers are largely independent and can afford to take independent decisions without fearing repercussions from the state, the Rwandan situation is different.
The Rwandan state maintains a firm grip on the public and private sectors.
At the RPF headquarters its reported that “the Private Sector and ruling party secretariat plus the National Security and Intelligence Services convened a meeting involving all importers (only for the products from Uganda).
The meeting was attended by representatives from several beverage distributors including Liquor Palace, SOCODIP, Crane and Honest among others.
During the meeting, security chiefs and RPF honchos informed the Rwandan businessmen about the souring relations between Uganda and Rwanda.
They said Uganda continues to sabotage the Rwandan economy so as to keep dumping goods on their market.
The importers were also informed that Uganda is propping up Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a diaspora-based movement led by dissident general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa which intends to destabilise the country.
After this briefing, security chiefs bluntly told the importers to “stop importing and stop making any transfer of funds to any account beneficiary in Uganda.”
This is how the business operates. A beer importer in Kigali or any other part of Rwanda will send an email to Ugandan manufacturers requesting delivery of soda or beer which is later distributed across the country.
Ugandan beers especially Nile Special and Club are very popular brands among Rwandans especially those who lived in Uganda during their childhood.
Ugandan manufacturers cannot export beer or soda to Rwanda if there are no orders for the same.
Therefore, with Rwandan importers cancelling orders, Ugandan manufacturers were locked out of the Rwandan market by the stroke of a pen.
The manufacturers quickly alerted authorities including President Museveni about the same development.
This was seen as part of Rwanda’s strategy to keep out Ugandan goods on its market.
But Rwanda cannot publicly declare that Ugandan goods are not allowed on their market as the country is a signatory to the East African Community (EAC) Common Market protocols hence resorting to border closure tactics and increasing tariffs.
Rwanda Foreign Minister Dr Richard Sezibera this week implied goods cannot move in the region if the people are moving in reference to the border restrictions and alleged harassment of Rwandans in Uganda.
Rwanda is bound to uphold the requirements of the Common Market which have been in force since 2010, in line with the provisions of the EAC Treaty.
To accelerate economic growth and development, EAC Partner States are mandated to maintain a liberal stance towards the four Freedoms of movement for all the factors of production which include goods, personas, labour/workers, services, and capital.
How it started
Late last year, Ugandan authorities were informed that Rwanda intended to block imports supplied by Mukwano Industries such as soap, cooking oil and plastics among other items.
This was not taken seriously until recently when Rwanda started imposing restrictions on Ugandan goods.
Cement and construction materials such as steel were also targeted in the blockade.
Uganda Media Centre last week said the Rwandan government increased tariffs on Ugandan goods at Cyanika Border point.
“To clear a truck, they have doubled the price from 200,000 Rwanda Francs to 400,000 Francs (approximately Shs 1.6m),” said the media centre.
The tariff on a truck of maize was increased from Rwandan Francs 150,000 to Rwanda Francs 300,000 (Shs 12m).
A few years ago, Ethiopia announced plans to sell surplus power from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to East African countries including Rwanda.
Rwanda responded by constructing transmission lines up to the Uganda border from where it would tap electricity to power its industrial sector.
Rwanda believes Uganda deliberately delayed to extend power lines to the border.
The Uganda-Rwanda interconnection line runs from Mbarara substation to Mirama substation in Uganda, then from Mirama substation to the new Birembo station in Rwanda.
The project seeks to improve the living conditions of the people, as well as the quality of the socioeconomic development environment of the regions, based on the availability of affordable electric energy and access by the communities to electricity through increased cross-border electric power trade.
President Museveni in June 2018 said the project would soon be completed.
“The electricity line to Rwanda through the Mirama Hills is now 75 percent complete. The target is to ensure that it is ready for commissioning by October this year,” said Museveni.
Ugandan officials blame bureaucracy for the delayed implementation of the project.