How wide open is Rwanda-Uganda main border?

Gatuna/Katuna border point in Uganda. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya

There is excitement a day to the scheduled re-opening of Gatuna border to Rwandans, for the first time since February 2019 when government imposed travel restrictions after a diplomatic row with Kampala.

According to the Rwanda government statement, the once busiest border crossing serving Kigali and its neighbor in the North will reopen Monday, marking end to the three-year long conflict induced closure.

Incurred losses are colossal. And border communities, traders and firms for whom cross-border traffic was key revenue and business source were hit the hardest.

Official data show imports – Warage, V&A, Movit, Highland milk, Hima cement — from Uganda, which had grown to $65.6 million in 2018 fell consistently to as low as $0.13 million in the third quarter of 2021.


At least five bus operators plied the Kigali-Kampala, and Kigali-Nairobi via Kampala routes with more than 20 trips each daily. Clients were largely Rwandans travelling to Uganda for ‘weekend,’ ‘trade’ and mostly business.

A friend told me travelers for ‘weekend’ and ‘trade’ since turned to Dubai and Nigeria. They fly. He left me wondering if the bus companies will be able to entice them back.

But that is in case they (bus companies) did not collapse because most had bank loans which since accumulated, eroding the possibility for ever emerging from losses, and recovering.

One more question: How wide will the border re-open in view of the prevailing pandemic situation? Besides, Rwanda maintains the planned re-opening doesn’t mean issues with Uganda are over, rather only a step forward in the process of resolving the remaining issues.

Therefore, taking the above into account, and going by what’s been going on at functional Rwanda land borders namely with Tanzania and DR Congo, it may be too early for the ordinary person to celebrate the reopening.

For instance, borders with Congo are partially reopened to only passport holders who are compelled to undergo routine virus tests at own costs.

Officials prioritise only cargo at Rusumo border with Tanzania.

I don’t remember about Burundi because I have not heard of anyone attempting to cross legally for long.

What I’m sure of is that virus restrictions at land borders, just like flying, make life hard for me and “a few” broke fellas.

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