KAMPALA. Religious leaders have appealed for dialogue as a measure to resolve the weeklong stand-off between Uganda and Rwanda that culminated in the closure of the border between the two countries.
Under their umbrella body, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, the clerics describing themselves as ‘ardent advocates of dialogue’, asked the heads of the two states “to sit at a round table and find a lasting solution to the underlying misunderstandings.”
“We are certain that a number of channels still exist to resolve this conflict. These include preventive diplomacy spearheaded by two ministers of foreign affairs, the East African Conflict Management Act of 2012, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Peace and Security (PSC) of the African Union (AU),” said Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubaje, the IRC Chairperson.
Addressing the media in Kampala, Sheikh Mubaje also the head of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council warned that the conflict between two East African countries has far-reaching effects on the region and entire continent.
“It is important to note that whereas the border closure is hardly one and half weeks old, the impact is by far overwhelming. Already traders are losing large volumes of their perishable goods as the cargo trucks remain stranded at borders,” he added.
According to Shiekh Mubaje, “besides, it is the same traders who must foot the excess bills occasioned by the immobile vehicles. The education fortunes of the innocent Rwandan school children commuting daily from Rwanda to Uganda are in jeopardy as they are barred from crossing the border.”
On the social and cultural scale, Shiekh Mubaje said that the border closure negatively affects the citizens wishing to visit their friends and relatives across the border.
Political activists speak
At a separate press conference, the minister of foreign affairs under the newly created peoples’ government, Mr Atkinson Katushabe said that the spoilt relationship between the two states calls for foreign intervention to mediate.
“We call for peace. There should be no fighting and that is what we wish for our country. However, if all that does not work, we shall call on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US president Bill Clinton to come and talk to the two presidents whom they praised after they assumed power,” Mr Katushabe said.
Ms Ingrid Turinawe, the internal affairs minister in the same group said: “We have learnt that these two presidents have their own quarrels, they should not affect Ugandans. We also call for access to the prison to the Rwandan so that the prisoners can get access to lawyers and have their cases heard in courts of law.”