Rwanda and Uganda have officially resumed diplomatic talks, a significant step towards reviving relations between the two countries that were at loggerheads for almost three years till the beginning of this year.
A delegation of Ugandan officials led by the Foreign Affairs Minister Odongo Jeje Abubakhar held talks with their Rwandan counterparts on Thursday in Kigali.
The team, which included Foreign PS Bagiire Vincent Waiswa and acting Director of Regional and International Political Affairs Arthur Kafeero, had arrived in Rwanda a day earlier.
Recently appointed Ugandan High Commissioner to Rwanda Robert Rusoke was also in the talks with the Rwandan team led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta.
In a joint statement released after the meeting on Thursday, the countries said the diplomatic and political consultations are a continuation of the commitment of the heads of State to deepen further and strengthen the cordial relations between the two countries.
“The ministers exchanged views on regional matters relating to security, trade, investment, and strategic regional projects.
“They agreed to review and revive bilateral cooperation in the different areas of interest by convening the next Joint Permanent Commission between Rwanda and Uganda,” the statement reads.
Rwanda will host the meeting slated for March 2023.
Rwanda and Uganda have been working on reviving relations since early this year with official visits to each other countries, including President Paul Kagame’s visit to Kampala in April and Yoweri Museveni’s trip to Kigali in June during the Commonwealth summit.
Ismael Buchanan, a Kigali-based political analyst and lecturer of International Relations at the University of Rwanda, says reviving bilateral trade should be a priority.
“There has been tremendous progress made in Rwanda and Uganda relations this year. The constant visit by officials is key because there are still issues that need to be addressed, including trade. There is hope, but we are yet to see Ugandan products on Rwanda’s market as we used to,” he said.
Relations between the two neighbouring countries deteriorated in 2018 when Kigali accused Kampala of harbouring groups hostile to it and torturing innocent Rwandans on its soil. The heightened tensions saw Rwanda close its common border with Uganda.
The two countries have since held several talks to normalise relations, and the border was reopened in February.
However, trade has not picked up as expected.
Uganda’s exports to Rwanda hit a low of $2 million in 2020 at the peak of hostilities between the two countries, from a high of more than $200 million before the closure of the border.