As the Rwandan border with Uganda at Katuna and Cyanika remain closed for three months now, traders from either side have resorted to smuggling.
Local residents and traders in an interview with the daily monitor newspaper expressed that smuggling is risky but highly rewarding with abnormal profits if one beats the Rwandan security forces to the game.
Mr Enock Kazooba, the chairman of Ryakarikira Town Council in Kabale District, which borders with Rwanda, said during night hours, Rwandan nationals smuggle beans, peas and some manufactured goods to Uganda through ungazetted border points, where waiting Ugandan traders pay them cash.
“They have resorted to this illegal trade to raise money for funding their daily needs. Ever since the Rwandan border was closed, many Rwandan nationals have entered Uganda and are staying in different communities in the sub-counties near the border,” Mr Kazooba said.
On February 27, Rwandan authorities closed their border with Uganda at Katuna, accusing Uganda of torturing its citizens and immediately stopped them from crossing into Uganda. Uganda denies the claim.
Last month, a Rwandan businessman, Mr Innocent Mr Ndahimana, a resident of Nyakabungo Village, Chumba Sub-county in Gicumbi District in Rwanda was allegedly shot by Rwandan security operatives as he tried to smuggle about 500kg of beans into Uganda during evening hours.
He was rushed by his colleagues to Katuna Community Medical Clinic on the Ugandan side for treatment.
A businessman in Katuna Town Council said he and his colleagues have resorted to smuggling because the risky trade is lucrative.
“We buy beans that Rwandans smuggle to Uganda at Shs2,000 per kilo and sell at Shs2,400 per kilo. As Rwandans return to their homes, they buy posho [maize floor], matooke, potatoes, raw tobacco and cassava, among others, from us,” Mr Twesigye said.
The officer-in-charge of Uganda Revenue Authority enforcement at the border, Mr Patrick Esabu, warned traders against smuggling, saying anybody caught in the act would be prosecuted.
The chairman of the traders association at Katuna Town Council, Mr Franko Korinako, said business in Katuna Town has collapsed and many shops and hotels closed for lack of customers.
“There used to be about 40 guest houses in Katuna serving hundreds of traders that crossed the Katuna border every day but since the border was closed, more than 35 of them have closed for lack of customers,” Mr Korinako said.