Uganda says Rwanda’s allegations that it is supporting rebel groups opposed to President Paul Kagame’s government are false.
Relations between the two neighbours deteriorated further last week after Kigali closed its border at Gatuna/Katuna prohibiting Ugandan cargo trucks from entering the country and blocking its nationals from crossing into Uganda.
Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister said Tuesday that Uganda was supporting two outlawed groups, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
“This is another serious case and we have raised it with them,” he told journalists in Kigali.
He also claimed that Kampala was arresting, torturing and harassing its nationals “for reasons we don’t understand and in breach of international obligations.” Rwanda, he said, had recorded 190 such cases and 986 deportations.
“When some people are deported they reach our border in poor health. This has been happening for a long time and there is no solution so far,” he said.
A few hours after the press briefing in Kigali, Dr Sezibera’s counterpart in Uganda in his rejoinder refuted the allegations made by Rwanda.
Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa in his statement addressed three main issues – hosting rebels; arrest, torture and harassment of Rwandans; and restricting business.
“It is false that Uganda hosts any elements fighting Rwanda. Rwanda knows this very well as it has been a matter of confidential communication at the highest level of the two countries,” Mr Kutesa said adding, “Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbour as alleged.”
Mr Kutesa also said Uganda maintains an open door policy for all nationalities.
“It is not true that Uganda arrests, tortures and harasses Rwandans. It is well known that Uganda welcomes and maintains an open door policy for people of all nationalities including Rwandans… It is not by mistake that Uganda continues to be the largest refugee host country in the continent. However, Uganda expects that all visitors including Rwandans to remain law abiding,” he said.
The minister said since the country has been a target of terrorist attacks and high-profile assassinations “the government of Uganda remains committed to protecting the security of its citizens and its borders and will act accordingly against local or foreign threats.”
More than a hundred cargo trucks carrying fuel, food, construction materials and other items from Kenya and Uganda have been stranded at Katuna/Gatuna, the busiest crossing point on the Rwanda-Uganda border since the blockade started on February 27.
Mr Kutesa said: “It is unfortunate that the movement of goods and people across our common border with Rwanda, has been restricted. This harms our economies and social interaction and also threatens our integration efforts under the East African Community, which we have all worked hard to build. Uganda is committed to addressing any trade related issues.”
Rwanda depends for much of its imports on a trade route through Uganda to Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. The same artery is also a pipeline for goods from Kenya and Uganda to Burundi and parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
-Additional reporting by Reuters