Uganda Airlines will resume direct flights to the Rwandan capital Kigali for the first time since its revamp in 2019, officials have announced.
The development follows several on-and-off engagements over the matter between officials from the two countries.
Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo made this announcement on Friday at the conclusion of the two-day 11th Session of the Rwanda-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) in Kigali.
According to Mr Odongo, the move seeks to address transport challenges faced by the business community from both countries, boost trade, enhance connectivity and contribute to the strengthening of people-to-people exchanges.
“Uganda welcomes the acceptance of the designation of our national carrier Uganda Airlines by the Rwanda authorities, which will lead to its commencing of direct flights from their hub in Entebbe to Kigali,” he said in a statement.
Uganda Airlines resumed commercial flights in 2019, targeting mostly regional destinations but efforts for the carrier to secure landing rights in Kigali have been futile, mostly because of a diplomatic rift.
The airline currently flies to Nairobi, Kinshasa, Juba, Mombasa, Dar es Salam, Mogadishu, Kilimanjaro and Bujumbura.
Since its revamp, officials from both countries have been engaging in talks to see that the airline gets cleared to operate direct flights from its hub in Entebbe to Kigali.
But the two countries were having a diplomatic rift that saw Kigali close its common border with Uganda for over two years.
Rwanda accused Uganda of supporting forces that are intent on toppling the Kigali government and mistreatment of its citizens who live in Kampala.
Uganda on the other hand accused Kigali of espionage and infiltrating its security forces.
Common border opened
Following several engagements under the Rwanda-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission, some concessions were made and Kigali last year opened the common border.
Allowing Uganda Airlines to fly to Kigali signals a further opening up of relations between the two countries.
Already, RwandAir, Kigali’s national carrier, operates direct flights to Entebbe.
Trade between the two countries has significantly gone down, although it is currently on the rise.
“In respect to trade, we are noticing a rebound in the trade exchanges between the two countries. However, the volumes of trade have not yet reached the desired levels,” Odongo said.