By Kampala Post Reporter
Rwandans citizens have asked President Paul Kagame to resolve the issues surrounding the closure of the Uganda-Rwanda border that has resulted in the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities such as soap, sugar, and salt.
As a result, public hostility towards the Rwandan government is growing by the day as locals publicly urge Kagame to resolve the ongoing tension with his counterpart President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, lest they die of hunger due to the food crisis. For years, Uganda has been a food basket to the Rwandans.
Recently, Kagame was publicly confronted by ordinary peasants when he visited Nyagatare district. The locals mainly elderly people complained about hunger and starvation.
Nyagatare is located in the North East of Rwanda and borders Uganda in the North. In 2017, people of Nyagatare again complained to Kagame about hunger, and in response, he told them, “Do you think you are the only ones suffering? Shut up or I will not sort your problem.”
According to a source at the Uganda-Rwanda border who spoke on condition of anonymity, Rwandan soldiers have been raiding the countryside for food to feed their families.
“Our soldiers are now involved in smuggling goods into Rwanda. The situation is really bad and people are desperate,” said the source. According to sources that have ethnic and familial links with people in Rwanda, early this week, due to public pressure, the Rwandan government was forced to allow civilians to cross the border to buy food in large quantities from Kyanika, Kisoro.
“The people bought a lot of food and returned to Rwanda,” a source told Kampala Post.
Inside sources have revealed that ever since Kagame closed Rwanda-Uganda border, food prices have been skyrocketing prompting locals to sneak into Uganda to buy cheap food. Apparently, the price of soap in Kigali has gone up from 1,000 francs a month ago to currently 4,000 francs. 4,000 francs is about Shs15,000.
As presumed that alcohol is the best prescription to frustration, apparently even price of waragi in Rwanda has skyrocketed and soldiers at the border have turned into smugglers where they are making a kill from the despairing locals. “Soldiers have also begun raiding food stores in the countryside to feed their families,” a source added.
Last week, a Rwandan woman collapsed and died as she attempted to secretly cross the border to Uganda in search of food. Elisabeth Mukarugwiza,38, a local businesswoman from Kinigi Sector, in Musanze District died near Kyanika border post on the Ugandan side. Whereas Ugandan border has remained open, Rwandan security is heavily deployed near the Ugandan border to avoid any Rwandan from crossing to Uganda. And as a result, hunger and starvation are ravaging Rwanda ever since the border closure in February 2019.
Kagame Calls for Talks
Following complaints of hunger and starvation from his despairing citizens, Kagame has as a result swallowed his pride and reportedly called for reconciliation with Uganda’s Museveni who seem less affected by the border closure. Last week, Kagame, who was addressing the Africa CEO Forum 2019 in Kigali said that Uganda and Rwanda can resolve their differences.
“To say the least, if we can’t work together as brothers, sisters, friends, we can decide to give each other peace and forget what we have to do together but above all avoid quarrels that will be destructive because no one will win from any serious quarrel,” Kagame told the summit. The summit was attended by Uganda’s Regional Cooperation Minister Philemon Mateke.
On February 28, 2019, Rwanda closed off its citizens and goods from crossing over to Uganda. At first, the reason given for the border closure was that it was because of the road works which could not allow free movement of vehicles.
However, as the impasse continued, with Uganda pestering its neighbor for a genuine reason for the border closure, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister and government spokesperson Richard Sezibera addressed a press conference in Kigali accusing the government in Kampala of harboring Rwandan dissidents.
The accusation was however vehemently denied by Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa. In his March 10 open letter to Kagame, President Museveni emphatically assured him that, “there is no question of Uganda supporting anti-Rwanda elements” and that, “It is, therefore, correct to only concentrate on bilateral or multilateral issues and never involve oneself in the internal affairs of other countries.