At around 3:30 pm on Sunday, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda landed on Ugandan soil ahead of UPDF commander land forces and first son Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s birthday state dinner.
This was the first time that Kagame stepped a foot on Ugandan soil since March 2018.
It is hoped that President Kagame’s visit will further ease the remaining diplomatic tensions between Uganda and Rwanda.
The two countries recently saw their long-term cordial relations take a turn for the worse in 2019, when Rwanda closed its border at Gatuna/Katuna.
The Rwandan head of state accused Uganda of harbouring persons who posed security threats to Rwanda. He also accused Uganda of harassing and arresting Rwandan nationals in Uganda, although the Ugandan government denied these allegations.
Although the border was fully re-opened recently after a two-year hiatus following talks between Kagame and first son Muhoozi, both governments confirmed that there were still some pending issues, which experts believe that Kagame’s visit will now try to diffuse.
Foreign Affais Minister Jeje Odongo, in an exclusive interview with Nile Post on Friday said that conversations were continuing to restore friendship between the two countries.
Rwanda and Uganda enjoy very close historical ties, ranging from culture, backgrounds of the two presidents among others. This made them strategic security and trade partners before the 2019 stand-off.
Before the border closure, Rwanda was Uganda’s third largest market in the East African region after Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to a report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Uganda in 2016 exported items worth USD 226m to Rwanda and imported items USD 12m from Rwanda. This balance of trade with Rwanda makes it even more strategic, when compared to business with Kenya.
UBOS statistics in the same year also indicated that more people crossed from Uganda to Rwanda and vice-versa than from any other country in the region. Statistics also revealed Rwanda was bringing in more tourists into the country than any other neighbour.
With President Kagame’s visit, the negotiations to put the stand-off to an end are seemingly heading to the positive direction and both countries could go back yo enjoying a cordial relationship that will spur growth and peace in the region.