Rwandans and Ugandans intending to travel to either country using the just re-opened Gatuna/Katuna border will have to wait longer as officials of both countries work out modalities of managing travel in the context of Covid-19.
The border, which had been closed since February 2019 amid a diplomatic impasse, reopened Monday, but many who intended to travel could not do so as only cargo, returning Rwandan citizens, and a few Ugandans traveling for essential purposes were cleared to cross into Rwanda.
Immigration and customs officials of both countries held a closed-door meeting on the Rwandan side Monday morning, which is understood to have deliberated on necessary measures to facilitate movements in the context of Covid-19.
Rwanda government spokespeople had earlier indicated that the same Covid-19 protocols observed at other functional land borders will be applicable at the Gatuna/Katuna border.
“Trucks, Rwandan citizens and returning residents are crossing to Rwanda at Gatuna like at other border points, as per EAC Covid-19 protocols. As noted in the communiqué, Rwandan and Ugandan health officials are working on joint Covid-19 protocols, which will enable all to cross on both sides,” Rwanda government Spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a tweet Monday.
It was, however, unclear to those who intend to travel what the specific protocols are.
Rwandan health officials indicated that a team of medical personnel and equipment had been deployed to Gatuna ahead of its re-opening to facilitate with Covid-19 testing.
Rwanda last week announced the reopening of the Gatuna border effective January 31 after a series of meetings President Paul Kagame held with envoys from his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.
A statement released by the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation a week after the visit and closed-door meeting with Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son, stated that “there is a process to solve issues raised by Rwanda, as well as commitment made by the government of Uganda to address the remaining obstacles.”
Before the border closure, Kigali accused Kampala of hunting down Rwandan nationals in Uganda, and supporting groups working against the regime in Rwanda.
The issues sparked diplomatic tensions that, in February 2019, led to the closure of their common border of Gatuna, the busiest import and export corridor linking both countries and the region to the port of Mombasa.
Officials in Rwanda maintain the Gatuna border re-opening doesn’t imply that issues Rwanda raised have all been addressed, but it is a step forward in the process of resolving the remaining issues.