By Barbara Among
THE Uganda-Rwanda border customs points will start 24-hour operations next month, according to an agreement signed by the two countries.
The decision was arrived at during the Joint Permanent Commission meeting in Kampala last week.
The development also follows growing traffic of cargo and passengers at the borders. â€œWe have also agreed to create new border posts,â€ said Ugandan foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa.
The meeting held at Serena Hotel in Kampala last week agreed to launch the one-stop border centre and 24-hour operation of the Katuna/Gatuna border by April, according to the joint communiquÃ©.
The two-day meeting also agreed to operationalise the border post of Rwempasha, Kizinga and upgrade the operations at Kamwezi, Buziba.
Speaking at the closure of the conference, Rwandan foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwaho said her government is willing to cooperating with Uganda.
She also reiterated Rwandaâ€™s commitment to steer the growth of the East African Community.
Traffic between the two countries is increasing, with buses leaving Kampala at 11:00pm. They arrive at Katuna before 6:00am. However, bus operators have complained that most times the border is closed, leaving passengers to suffer in the biting cold.
The meeting also tasked the rural electrification department in the energy ministries of both countries to assess how the borders post could be lit by June.
Uganda announced that it is tarmacking the Ntungamo-Mirama Hills road. The two areas are gazetted border posts.
The meeting also agreed that the two countries will launch a one-stop border centre and a simplified certificate of origin on March 19.
Uganda is expected to provide a list of items on the certificate, as well as information on the issuing authority.
It was noted that the 24-hour border operation was a presidential directive.
Other issues agreed upon were the remarking of the Uganda-Rwanda border, slated to start next month.
The exercise has dragged on for five years due to lack of funds.
Kutesa announced that the two countries had put aside funds to resume the verification exercise.
The meeting agreed to continue sensitising Rwandan refugees on the need to return home.
The refugees have over the years resisted calls from the Ugandan government to voluntarily return home.
The meeting also agreed to review the gorilla trans-boundary agreement on the revenue shared by the two countries and conclude it in July.
Meanwhile, in an interview yesterday, Ugandaâ€™s ambassador to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero, said trade between Uganda and Rwanda increased by over 60% in the last one year.
The trade volume increased from $90m in 2008 to $168m last year, making Rwanda the number two trading partner in the region, after South Sudan.
Leading export items to Rwanda are construction materials and foodstuffs.
Uganda is also fast becoming the number one preferred destination for students from Rwanda, numbering 400 at the moment.
Kabonero said most of the Ugandans living in Rwanda are artisans working in garages and others have shops.
About 200 of the estimated 4,000 Ugandans living in Rwanda are professionals working with institutions of learning and international agencies. He said the majority are doctors and teachers.