By Frank Kamuntu
The Government of Rwanda has formally notified Uganda and Kenya of the sudden decision by Burundi to block cargo trucks entering their country through Rwanda.
All Burundi-bound trucks transporting cargo from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, transit through Uganda and Rwanda. However, authorities in Gitega recently decided to block trucks using the Northern Corridor, causing gridlocks at points of entry.
However, the move has since been strongly criticised by freight transporters and the business community in general, especially because it goes against last week’s decision by a ministerial meeting from East African Community member states.
The meeting took place in the context of the Coronavirus outbreak in EAC member states whereby ministers met virtually on March 25, 2020, and directed all partner states to facilitate continued free movement of goods even as they take measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has since sent Notes Verbales to Kampala and Nairobi, informing them that Kigali has been left with no choice but to stop trucks headed for Burundi from the two East African neighbours.
“The Government of the Republic of Burundi is no longer allowing cargo trucks transiting through Rwanda to enter Burundi’s territory despite the above-mentioned decision by Ministers of the East African Community,” it wrote in part.
“Since Burundi has effectively closed all its borders to cargo transiting through Rwanda, the Government of Rwanda will no longer allow entry on its territory to cargo trucks destined to Burundi.”
Burundi’s decision has since seen many heavy trucks that had been cleared by Rwanda and Burundi immigration and customs officials (under the One Stop Border Post arrangement) stuck in the no-man’s land between Rwanda and Burundi since last week.
It has also been discovered that efforts by truck drivers and merchandise owners to negotiate with Burundian authorities to allow in the goods have remained futile.
At Nemba One Stop Border Post in Bugesera District, of the three freight trucks which failed to get clearance to enter Burundi since March 28, two (both with Ugandan registration number plates) were offloaded and then goods loaded onto Burundian trucks while the third, with a Kenyan registration number, was yet to be cleared by Tuesday, March 31. However, at Ruhwa border post in Rusizi, two cargo trucks had been denied entry since Friday.
At Akanyaru-Haut, two trucks were stranded at the Rwandan side of the border, as cargo owners tried to negotiate with Burundian authorities for entry.
As a result of this blockade, at least eight trucks destined for Burundi have been parked at the no-man’s land at Mirama-Hills border post between Rwanda and Uganda since March 29.