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Uganda: Traders, truck drivers recount ordeal at closed Katuna border

“We left Mombasa in Kenya and reached Katuna border town on Wednesday hoping to proceed and deliver the salt that we are carrying only to find an order of no entry.

I have spent about Kshs10,000 (about Shs370,000) because of this delay unlike before when I could use only Kshs5,000 (Shs185,000).

I have been using three days to drive merchandise from Mombasa to Kigali through Katuna border, but because of the border closure issues, I have already spent six days and not sure how long it will take to open the border. I do not have enough fuel to drive through Mirama hills,” Mr Denis Mwaka said.

Like Mwaka, many other drivers and traders whose cargo trucks have been parked at Katuna border since Wednesday, are counting losses as their perishable goods have started going bad.

The most affected are traders that deal in agricultural products that can easily go bad such as; oranges, mangoes, fish and Irish potatoes among others.

Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) on Wednesday said cargo trucks from Uganda were blocked at Katuna/Gatuna border to pave way for the upgrade of the one-stop border post.

Other drivers of trucks carrying building materials and other processed goods from Uganda say that the money budgeted for the route from Mombasa to Kigali has already been used up during the four days they have been stuck at the border.

Mr Johnie Hakiziimana a driver of a truck carrying glass from Mombasa said he is not sure whether he will afford a meal if the border is not opened any time soon.

“I have spent three days at Katuna border. I will sleep in my truck with the turn man because I do not have any more money to hire the hotel room I have been occupying,” Mr Hakiziimana said.

Apart from the truck drivers, other traders including those dealing in soft drinks and money changing businesses are also facing a tough time.

“We are worried because the situation is getting worse day after the other. Rwandan children who have been studying from schools in Katuna town council were denied entry into Uganda by the security operatives at the Gatuna border post on the Rwanda side.

I witnessed pupils and other Rwanda nationals being denied entry into Uganda on Friday morning,” Mr Samuel Mbabazi, the Kinyogo ward councillor to Katuna town council, said.

The chairman of clearing agents at Katuna border town Mr Sam Sserwanga on Friday said that no single clearing agent of Rwandan origin was allowed to cross into Uganda,l and he has not been told the reason why.

“We appeal to Rwandan authorities to allow only the vehicles that are cleared by the Uganda customs to cross into their country through Gatuna border post because it is unfair to bounce them back from Katuna to Mirama hills then to Kigali which is about 200km compared to 90km from Katuna border where they are parked, to Kigali,” Mr Sserwanga said.

He added that over 150 cargo trucks are currently parked right from no-man’s land, stretching up to one kilometre on the Ugandan side.

A money changer only identified as Igg Kebondo said that he has been operating at Katuna border town for more than 20 years and he has never experienced such business tension.

“Some of our colleagues have been making profits of about Shs100,000 per day from money-changing business because of the hundreds of people that have been crisscrossing Katuna border, but ever since this border was closed, none of us has made any profit. We are here just spending the money without working,” Mr Kebondo said.

Mr John Kim Mugisha a Boda-Boda rider at Katuna border town said that hotel and lodge owners could have made some profits during the first days of the border closure but as the days go by, their business shall be seriously affected because many of the long route drivers have exhausted their pocket money.

By Daily Monitor

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