By George Stephen Odongo
A section of Ugandan legislators have urged government to impose a travel ban on Ugandans intending to travel to Rwanda until such a time that the current tensions between the two erstwhile allies have eased.
The legislators are genuinely concerned about the loss of lives of innocent Ugandans crossing the border into Rwanda. Authorities in Rwanda insist that those recently killed are smugglers who turned violent as they were being apprehended.
The legislators are voicing valid and legitimate concerns of their constituents. However, the move to impose a travel ban on Ugandans intending to travel to Rwanda is not only illegal but may produce negative unintended consequences.
Uganda’s view about Rwanda as an ally, a partner and a sister country has not changed in spite of the prevailing tensions. Such a move to ban travel may escalate tensions, inflame passions and cause unnecessary anxiety among our border communities.
In the current circumstances, let us exercise maximum restraint and call upon our neighbour to reciprocate. We should all support the current diplomatic efforts, including the Luanda Agreement.
Uganda’s commitment to diplomatic means in resolving these protracted tensions is within the realms of our foreign policy outlook – which is largely influenced by our fidelity to regional integration and Pan Africanism.
As members of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), we have held intense and robust discussions on this matter and consulted widely and deeply on how best to resolve these tensions.
Consequently, we have called on the two conflicting parties to explore all available avenues of resolving the tensions through peaceful means. The current effort facilitated by Presidents Joao Lourenco of Angola and Felix Tshisekedi of the DR Congo should be extensively supported by all the stakeholders.
There is no doubt at all that the current standoff is hurting the bilateral relations between Uganda and Rwanda and East African Community in general.
The “invisible wall” along our common border with Rwanda and the weaponization of trade undermines our mutual prosperity and our global standing as the EAC. Please tear down the “invisible wall” and let us fast-track the normalization of our relations through Peaceful means.
The Author is Uganda’s representative at East African Legislative Assembly [EALA]