Tensions on the rise between Rwanda and Uganda

A white metal bar with raised red letters spelling "Rwanda" on it, in front of a paved road

The Rwanda-Uganda border crossing at Cyanika, December 2014

Rwanda and Uganda are solidly into their twentieth year of tense relations, after their respective presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni fell out in the late 1990s over the management of looted resources from eastern DRC during the Second Congo War.  The tension between them has entered the headlines again lately after Rwanda closed one of its major border crossings with Uganda at Gatuna.   The government has issued mixed messages about the reasons for the closure, with some officials saying that it was simply for road work, but others claiming that it was done in retaliation for harassment of Rwandan citizens in Uganda.  For its part, there are persistent but unsubstantiated rumors within Uganda that Rwandan citizens are involved in plots to overthrow Museveni.

The East African has a good overview of the regional geopolitics of the Rwanda – Uganda relationship.  As they note, this has major implications for the development of regional infrastructure.

Rwanda, a small landlocked country, is served by two major transport corridors — the Central Corridor that runs from Dar es Salaam through Tanzania’s heartland, and the Northern Corridor that runs from Mombasa through Kenya and Uganda.

About 80 per cent of Rwanda’s import cargo is handled through the Dar port, but its major exports — minerals, tea and coffee — go through Uganda to the port of Mombasa.

Oil and capital goods to Rwanda come in mainly through Dar es Salaam. It is this route that President Kagame is seen to be moving to secure, as prospects of undertaking joint infrastructure projects with Kenya and Uganda grow dimmer as relations with Kampala get icier.