Uganda government has asked Rwandan authorities to release the clear goods worth billions of shillings stuck at Gatuna border post especially perishables and fuel which had earlier been cleared for the Rwandan market.
Rwanda last week wrote to URA, saying it had temporarily diverted heavy trucks from Gatuna to Kagitumba Border Post in a bid to expedite the on-going construction works of the One Stop Border Post.
But URA Commissioner for Customs Services, DicksonS Kateshumbwa, in a letter dated March 2, 2019 titled, ‘resolution of congestion at Katuna border post’, told his Rwandan counterpartthat they should have communicated in advance about the planned road works to avoid the current situation.
“Whereas the rationale and spirit behind the decision is appreciated, it would have been more appropriate to undertake the measures as a joint decision considering the fact that the affected borders are OSPBS where either side is interdependent on the other.”
Kateshumbwa further said a decision of this nature would “ideally give ample time to the stakeholders to enable adjustments to be done so as to comply, and in the case of customs to rationalize manpower so that we facilitate trade smoothly. In this particular case the implementation of the decision was done on the very day of notification.”
Rwanda is yet to respond to these concerns which have cost East African traders billions of shillings in lost revenue, time and goods.
As the Rwandan side takes its own time to resolve the matters,Ugandan counterparts mostly the businessmen are on the verge of losing all their capital that they had invested in the exports that have ever since been stuck at the border post since its closure.
Among them is Ugandan businessman
SAM BALIGWA who says his truck carrying fish worth Shs.30 Million is among those stuck at Gatuna Border post.He further adds that the fish is starting to go bad since he has taken over a week in the blockade that neither allows you to reverse or continue the journey.
Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Richard Sezibera this past week said “all Rwanda’s borders are open. Trucks and heavy vehicles are advised to use Kagitumba due to ongoing construction at Gatuna.”
But most trucks stuck at Gatuna lack space to maneuver and turn to a different direction.
At Cyanika which is located more than 100 kilometres away from Gatuna, Uganda Media Centre said the Rwandan government has doubled tariffs of goods.
“To clear a truck, they have doubled the price from 200,000 Rwanda Francs to 400,000 Francs (approximately Shs 1.6m). The tariff on a truck of maize has been increased from Rwandan Francs 150,000 to Rwanda Francs 300,000 (Shs 12m),” said the Media Centre.
Kateshumbwa observed that cargo consignment via Gatuna including cargo cleared under the Single Customs Territory (SCT) had already arrived and for some the customs clearance procedures had been finalized.
“As a result we have a clogged Katuna border post with 10 Rwandan registered trucks. 49 Ugandan registered trucks, 37 Kenyan registered trucks and 9 Burundian registered trucks all carrying mixed goods,” said Kateshumbwa.
Some of the goods are perishables such as mangoes, cassava among others.
“In addition, we have additional 17 Kenyan registered trucks carrying petroleum products (2 with PMS, 3 with jet A1 and 12 with AGO) all parked in the middle of the two OSBPs. Therefore considering the potential risk of these highly inflammable products as well as the potential deterioration of value in the case of perishables it is prudent that we take steps to unclog the border by facilitating the consignments that are already at the border having arrived before the notice,” said Kateshumbwa.
Highly placed officials told ChimpReports on Monday that the border row was being discussed at a high level with Rwanda expected to fully open Gatuna.
Ugandans have expressed suspicion that Rwanda wanted to use the Gatuna incident as a bargaining chip to compel Uganda free what Kigali describes as Rwandans illegally detained in Uganda.
Uganda government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said the so-called detainees “entered Uganda as citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo “seeking asylum and some are Ugandan citizens with passports.”
No response from Rwanda
Nevertheless, Kateshumbwa said whereas URA has requested for the opening of Katuna since last Thursday, “we are yet to receive positive response. It is practically impossible for the trucks to turn back from their positions at the border given that the entire border is choked and there is virtually no space to maneuver.”
He also warned that if the situation is not managed, it will “continue to increase the cost of doing business not only for our two countries but also for other partner states whose cargo is among.”