By Racheal Namuyanja
Women traders operating between Uganda and Rwanda have expressed their dissatisfaction at how the leaders of the East African community (EAC) have handled the border closure issue. Today 27th Feb 2020, marks one year since the closure of the Rwanda-Uganda border.
The women under their civil society organisations, East African Sub-Regional Initiative for Advancement of Women (EASSI) and Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) say the closure is in contravention of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African community and common market protocol.
“It is extremely absurd that EAC which is now celebrating 20 years of existence, with a mission to widen and deepen economic, political, social, and cultural integration in order to improve the trade and investments has remained silent to the suffering and humiliation of the East African people living and depending on trade at the borders of the two countries,” said Sheila Kawamara, Executive Director EASSI.
According to the chairperson Katuna Women Cross Border Traders Cooperative, Akankwasa Miria, ever since the border was closed, traders have been stuck with their merchandise and are not able to trade since most of their customers are from Rwanda
“Before the closure, I used to make utmost 500,000 Uganda shillings a day but now I can’t even make 50,000 shillings. I am unable to pay school fees for my children and banks are demanding me I pay the loans I got to invest in the business,” said Akankwasa.
In June 2019 after collecting over 600 statements from EAC citizens that have been affected by the border closure, EASSI, SEATINI-Uganda and Centre for food and Adequate Living Rights(CEFROHT) filed a case against the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda in the East African court of Justice (EACJ) over the continued arbitrary border closure.
In the litigation, the three Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) demand that the regional court pronounces itself on the continued impunity and arbitrary border closure and also want court to declare that this impunity must never be allowed to happen anywhere else within the EAC jurisdiction.