Kasese – The closure of the Uganda- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border at Mpondwe has left dozens of trucks stranded.
DRC closed its border on Tuesday following the Wednesday general elections.
Although the Kinshasa government declared that the border closure would take only 24 hours, all entry and exit points were still closed by 3 pm on Thursday and there were no signs that they would be opened soon.
As a result, the trucks carrying merchandise are now parked at a few meters from Bwera town to the Mpondwe border. The residents and drivers who spoke to Uganda Radio Network (URN) expressed uncertainty about what would happen in DRC since the winner of the presidential elections is yet to be declared.
Alfonse Mumbere, a vendor in Mpondwe market said he crosses to DRC to sell and buy merchandise but was not sure when that would resume.
“We have markets here every Tuesday and Friday. The markets operate in Uganda and DR Congo on those two days. But we’re not sure whether tomorrow (Friday) the markets will open,” Mumbere said.
A truck driver who identified himself as Musa applauded Dott Services for constructing the road which he said has simplified their journey into DRC.
“I’m only worried about the extra days I’ve to spend on this journey because of the border closure. However, I’m pleased by the works of Dott Services because the road in many parts is now passable. I also thank soldiers from both sides (Uganda and DRC) for protecting us and our bosses’ goods,” Musa said.
Deborah Kibiira a Congolese national whose relatives were killed during the 2021 attacks and now runs an onion stall in Mpondwe market said she sells her products in Uganda and DRC.
“I’m praying that the border is open soon because I’ve to sell these onions in DRC on Friday. I only go to DRC to sell my onions and other goods because I’ve been living in Uganda for two years. I came here when rebels attacked my village, killed my relatives and I now fear going back,” Kibiira said.
Business on both sides was at a low as people were not sure of what would happen after the presidential election winner was declared.
Uganda and DRC embarked on the construction of a road leading up to Ben in DRC for easy movement of goods and services.
However, Dott Services committed to contribute 60% of the project costs while Uganda and DRC would each contribute at least 20% of the costs. Dott Services would recover its money through road tolls and afterward hand it over to the two countries.
Uganda recently passed a budget worth 200 billion Shillings meant to support the construction of the roads leading to various parts of DRC. The road starts from Nyakabirizi in Kasese district.
A senior security officer said once the road that goes up to Ben in DRC is complete, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) will minimize their activities since it’ll be easy to reach their hideout.
ADF rebels have been based in DRC to attack Uganda since the 1990s and this year over 70 people have been killed by militias in Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, and Kamwenge districts.
Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) deployed in DRC in November 2021 after President Felix Tshekedi allowed joint offensive operations.
However, despite UPDF deployment, ADF and other militias have continued killing Ugandans and DR Congo nationals in spontaneous attacks. Trucks have been burnt, and traders and tourists have also been killed.