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Slow progress on the diplomatic de-icing

President Museveni's son, General Muhoozi, is keener on restoring ties with Kigali's government than his father

The deep freeze between Rwanda and Uganda may be coming to an end after officials confirmed earlier this week that they had resumed diplomatic talks.

The Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) between the two countries, which last met in 2012, will now be revived, and Rwanda will host its next meeting scheduled for March 2023.

The thaw began in January when and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame met with Uganda's General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the politically ambitious son of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Muhoozi and Kagame  agreed to re-open their countries' common border (AC Vol 63 No 3, Border reopening points to diplomatic thaw). It had been closed suddenly in 2019 after Rwanda accused the Ugandans of harbouring political dissidents. Improvements continued with Kagame's official visit to Kampala in April and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's trip to Kigali in June for the Commonwealth summit. Muhoozi, in particular, has taken a leading role in the recent shuttle diplomacy, also deporting several dissidents from the Rwandan opposition (Dispatches, 11/4/22. Deporting dissidents boosts Generals Muhoozi and Kagame).

'We have agreed that we need to be able to speak with one voice, in as far as regional matters, particularly security is concerned,' Uganda's foreign minister Jeje Odongo said following a meeting with Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta on Thursday (1 September).

However, despite the restoration of diplomatic niceties, resolving security disputes is likely to be slow. The immediate priority is likely to be restoring cross-border trade. Uganda's exports to Rwanda dropped to $2 million in 2020 at the peak of hostilities between the two countries, down from over $200m in better times. Trade volumes have been very slow to pick up since the re-opening. Manufacturers on both sides say that tariff and non-tariff barriers remain in place, particularly affecting food and agriculture, mining, iron and steel-related industries.



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