Rwanda to reopen its border with Uganda, ending a tense confrontation

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Rwandan authorities say they will reopen the border with Uganda, ending almost three years of a confrontation that appeared to hurt the economies of the two countries and raised fears of armed hostilities.

KAMPALA, Uganda – Rwandan authorities said early on Friday that they would reopen the border with Uganda, ending almost three years of a confrontation that seemed to hurt the economies of both countries and raised fears of armed hostilities. .

The announcement came after a period of quiet diplomacy during which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sent envoys, including his son, Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to negotiate with his Rwandan counterpart. Paul Kagame.

Kainerugaba, who commands Uganda’s infantry forces, was in Rwanda on Saturday. Earlier this week, Museveni made key changes to his security apparatus, dismissing the military intelligence chief who had been persistently criticized by Rwanda. This movement seems to have calmed Rwanda.

Rwanda first closed the busy Gatuna border crossing in February 2019. Subsequent talks mediated by Angola and Congo seemed unable to resolve the dispute, forcing Uganda to negotiate privately with Rwanda.

The Rwandan government says the border will be officially reopened on Monday. His statement said he remains committed to resolving outstanding issues and believes the announcement “will make a positive contribution to the rapid normalization of relations between the two countries”.

Development will bring encouragement to both Rwanda and Uganda after years of suffering for companies that lost markets and other opportunities. Uganda, which was denied a major market for its exports, seemed to lose more at the height of what it called an effective trade embargo.

The Rwandan government also ordered its citizens not to travel to Uganda, alleging that Rwandan citizens were unsafe across the border. He also accused the Ugandan authorities of supporting rebels opposed to Kagame and demanded the expulsion of Uganda from the business interests of a Rwandan tycoon who criticizes Kagame. But Ugandan officials have filed a counterclaim accusing Rwandan state agents of operating illegally in Uganda, even in the alleged abductions of Rwandan citizens who wanted to return home.

Tensions between Rwanda and Uganda have raised fears of a possible armed conflict, as Kagame and Museveni have made threatening comments at public events. After Museveni warned that “those who are trying to destabilize our country do not know our ability,” Kagame replied that “no one can get me on my knees anywhere.”

In the 1990s, the armies of Uganda and Rwanda went to war in eastern Congo when they supported rival rebel groups. Many parts of eastern Congo remain lawless, with armed groups still operating there. Some analysts have expressed concern that tensions between Uganda and Rwanda could lead to a proxy conflict in eastern Congo.

Kagame and Museveni, authoritarian leaders who have ruled their countries for many years, have been increasingly at odds in recent years, as Kagame, a former lieutenant of Museveni’s intelligence, asserts his authority at home and abroad. the region.

Kagame, who grew up as a refugee in Uganda, was a major in the Ugandan army before leading Ugandan-backed rebels who took power in Rwanda at the end of the 1994 genocide.

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Ssuuna reported from Kigali, Rwanda.

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