March 4, 2019 / 2:26 PM / 3 months ago

Uganda says Rwanda partially lifts trade blockade

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Rwanda has started to allow trucks carrying goods from Uganda to enter at one of the main crossing points on their shared border, the Ugandan government said on Monday, a sign that renewed hostilities have started to ease.

Rwanda last week abruptly begun blocking cargo trucks from Uganda from entering its territory as well as stopping its nationals from crossing over to Uganda.

Uganda summoned Rwanda’s ambassador to Kampala on Friday to protest against the border closure.

Ofwono Opondo, Uganda’s government spokesman, said on Monday that the flow of cargo traffic had been eased at Mirama Hills, one of the three main border crossings between the countries.

Uganda will review allegations of arbitrary detentions of Rwandese which authorities in Kigali have cited as one the reasons for stopping the country’s nationals from coming to Uganda, Opondo said.

“Specific cases raised on alleged arbitrary arrests or detentions shall be handled through normal diplomatic channels,” he wrote on Twitter.

Two other crossings including the busy Katuna border post remain closed, he said.

The hostilities, fueled by longstanding mutual suspicions and allegations of supporting each other’s dissidents, are unlikely to escalate into war because of overwhelming western diplomatic pressure on both sides to calm the situation, analysts said.

Rwanda depends for much of its imports on a trade route through Uganda to Kenya’s Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa.

The same transport artery is also a pipeline for goods from Kenya and Uganda to Burundi and parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Any prolonged disruption of the flow of commerce on the route could potentially trigger a serious economic crisis in the region.

Nicholas Sengoba, a Uganda political analyst, told Reuters the tensions were “a growing cancer” in relations between the two countries.

“But I don’t see the situation escalating to an outbreak of war simply because the economic and other stakes are high,” he said.

“The diplomatic pressure on both countries especially from the west will be such that both sides will have no choice but pull back.”

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema, editing by Ed Osmond

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