Reopening of Rwanda land borders: What we know

Reopening of Rwanda land borders: What we know
Rwanda-Uganda main border point of Gatuna/Katuna

Rwanda reopened all its land borders effective Monday March 7 as government eased Covid-19 protocols also lifting nightly curfew in place since mid-March 2020.

Government had officially closed land borders on March 21, 2020 as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

But Rwanda’s common land borders with Burundi and Uganda suffered prolonged closures as political tensions between the respective countries halted mobility way before the pandemic in 2015 and 2019 respectively.

Movement at Gatuna resumed for the first time on January 31 albeit for only cargo as Kampala and Kigali worked out modalities of allowing people later in efforts to end the longstanding diplomatic impasse. 

On day two of the 'restricted' reopening of Rwanda land borders, POST looks at the situation at all the 16 border points of Rwanda where at least 2.2 million people crossed each month before the pandemic.

The traffic meant business, revenue and livelihood source for many.

Crossing remain restricted

Official travel documents namely laissez passer/passport and proof of negative Covid-19 test -- or both are required at border points with DR Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.

Use of border pass (jeton) or IDs are not accepted as yet.

Burundi has not reopened its side of land borders with Rwanda. Gitega officials say there are pending issues to be resolved through existing talks with Rwanda.

Uganda and Rwanda are yet to harmonise Covid19 protocols. Rwanda officials say there are no restrictions imposed with regards to Covid-19 test except those done at random at no charge, but Uganda wants travelers to present PCR test results.

Kampala authorities, however, say it’s Rwanda that is requiring PCR tests.

Implications

The prevailing restrictions not only heighten cost of traveling but also inconveniences travelers and ordinary citizens in border communities. It could foment illegal border crossings by those who find travel costs beyond reach.

For instance, the cost of a PCR test of Rwf30,000 ($30) in Rwanda is exactly the same amount charged by bus companies for the Kigali - Kampala trip.

The round trip would therefore cost Rwf120,000 ($116) or more for regular travelers who are subjected to routine testing, in addition to costs of renewing travel documents that get used up fast.

This is how much the ordinary Rwandan needs to travel:

- Cost of travel docs of Rwf10,000 and Rwf75,000 - Rwf150,000 for laissez-passer and passport respectively.

- Routine test fees: Rwf5,000 or Rwf30,000 (Ug) at each trip

- Transport fare