By Alex Muhumuza.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is now openly calling for smuggling, while falsely claiming that Rwanda has “closed the border”. Museveni was talking to a group of foreign military officials when he openly called for Ugandan businesses and traders to resort to crime.
“Even if the border is closed,” Museveni said, “trade will go on, only that it will be through smuggling.” The Ugandan ruler of 33 years added: “You can’t stop trade through border administration. People resort to smuggling.”
An examination of the facts shows Museveni’s speech is filled with what some immediately called “desperate lying” that also involves inciting Ugandans to crime. The Rwandan administration has made clear it closed no borders. Rwanda said only the border of Gatuna was closed only to heavy trucks from the Ugandan side.
When the Rwandan authorities made the announcement on 1st March this year, they said the move to shut out heavy trucks was to facilitate fast completion of construction of the One Stop Border Post. Lighter vehicles can come and go as they please. At Gatuna people of all nations come and go, any time, with no restrictions. Heavy trucks are advised to use the Kagitumba Border.
Museveni disregarded all these facts as he called Ugandans to bypass lawful ways of doing things, by engaging in smuggling.
According to analysts, “the arrogance of the Museveni leadership in assuming that they can push Rwanda as they feel, it is what is coming back to bite them in the rear and now forcing them into promoting criminality.”
Observers say Rwanda’s decision – though fully intended to expedite work on its side of the OSBP – has caused a huge backlash against Museveni by Ugandan businessmen and traders that are losing a lot of business. Many are questioning Museveni’s hostile stance to Rwanda, including hosting or facilitating rebel groups bent on destabilizing Rwanda.
According to trade statistics, Uganda has been exporting around US$ 178 million worth of goods to Rwanda per annum, while Rwanda was exporting about 30 million worth to her northern neighbor. “As you can see, Uganda needs Rwanda far more than the other way round,” say analysts from both sides of the border.
Rwanda is better served shifting business to other neighbors, and moving her international trade through countries that are more neighborly than Museveni’s Uganda, is the reasoning now. Rwandan traders are being encouraged to cultivate business ties with more hospitable neighbor states where there are no chances of being abducted, illegally jailed, held incommunicado, and tortured.
Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera on his official Twitter Account at the beginning of march issued a strong advisory to Rwandans not to travel to Uganda, citing reasons such as extra-legal arrests, being held in unknown places without consular services being able to access them, and being detained for lengthy periods with no trial.
Such criminal mistreatments of Rwandans have not stopped up to now.
Museveni never mentioned these issues as he was giving his falsehood-filled speech.
Also, to hear Museveni talk of “market integration of Africa” is the ultimate in duplicity and hypocrisy, said a Kampala-based analyst that listened to him.
“Market integration of Africa and political integration for strategic security will stimulate the continent’s prosperity, and rapid economic transformation for the continent,” Museveni said.
But how does a person whose government more than any other breaks EAC Common Market laws on freedom of movement of people and goods dare say anything about African integration? wondered the analyst. More than a thousand Rwandans are in Ugandan prisons, having been arrested on false accusations of “illegal entry”.
The illegal entry accusations are on their face illegal in themselves, say lawyers.
“EAC Common Market Law is clear, citizens of East African Community member countries are by law supposed to move to, and within other member countries without fear of prosecution or persecution,” said a Ugandan lawmaker that’s also a member of the EAC Parliament.
But even after so many Rwandans have produced their national IDs to prove they are citizens of an EAC country; and even when those with passports and legitimate travel passes show them, very many still have ended up arrested, thrown in inhumane conditions in police cells in places like Kisoro, Kabale, Mbarara, and tortured. Many after suffering such abuses and torture are simply dumped at the borders by Ugandan authorities.
Also very many other Rwandan nationals have been abducted by security agencies such as the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence with accusations of “spying”, for which the accusers have never produced proof, or tried them in court so they could defend themselves.
The Museveni regime’s hostility to Rwanda has extended to Rwandan goods in transit through Uganda. In the recent past Ugandan authorities have stopped and held trucks carrying consignments of Rwandan milk exports to Kenya, until the milk went bad, causing huge losses to the exporters. Ugandan officials also have stopped a couple of trucks-full of Rwandan minerals en-route to the port, and held them for several months.
“They stopped the minerals even though all the paperwork was in order and nothing was wrong with them,” said a Rwandan official.
“Museveni and his people are not good neighbors at all and the sooner everyone totally understands that, the better!”, he added.
It’s simply amazing that rather than fixing this state of affairs that he is solely responsible for causing, Museveni is encouraging criminality.