Rwanda on Monday reopened its Gatuna border crossing with Uganda after a three-year closure, indicating an apparent thaw in relations.
The frontier was closed in February 2019, as political differences between the East African neighbors spiraled.
Rwanda announced the opening last week after a visit to its capital, Kigali, by the son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Why was the border closed?
Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame had been close allies in the 1980s and 1990s during their respective struggles for power in their countries. However, the alliance soured, and Rwanda shut the border after it accused Uganda of abducting its citizens and providing support to rebels seeking to overthrow Kagame.
Meanwhile, Uganda accused Rwanda of spying, in addition to killing two men in a 2019 incursion into Ugandan territory. Kigali has denied that claim.
Comments from a Rwandan government spokesman on Sunday signaled that some animosity still lingers.
Deputy government spokesman Alain Mukuralinda told Rwanda TV that Uganda had not yet addressed all the Rwandan grievances.
"It does not mean that cases of beatings, torture and deportations of Rwandan nationals are over. It does not mean that the people, based in Uganda, who want to destabilize Rwanda have stopped. We hope it is a good move towards stopping all that," he said.
The Gatuna crossing post, known as Katuna in Uganda, officially reopened at midnight, with traffic expected to gather pace throughout the day.
Why is the crossing reopening now?
The two governments have said they hope the reopening of the border can contribute to the normalization of relations.
The closure has not only affected Rwanda and Uganda. It also blocked a major commercial artery that funnels goods through the region from the Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa in Kenya.
From there, products move through Uganda and on to Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of Congo.
Trade from Uganda to its smaller neighbor is far higher than in the opposite direction. Uganda's annual exports to Rwanda — predominantly cement and food — rose gradually to more than $200 million (€178 million) in the past two decades but plummeted after the border closure in 2019.
In 2020, those exports to Rwanda had dropped to under $2 million, with the fall in trade exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.
rc/nm (AFP, Reuters)