Katuna traders, council count losses after border closure

By Robert Muhereza

KABALE. Katuna border town in Kabale District that used to operate 24 hours a day is now a shadow of its former self following closure of the opposite border point by Rwanda about three weeks ago.
Katuna has been the main route for cargo trucks heading to Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo. All cargo trucks have been diverted to the distant Mirama Hills entry border point in Ntungamo District.
During a spot visit on Tuesday, Katuna border town looked deserted as many shops remained closed while hotel attendants sat idle at balconies due to lack of customers.
A few shop owners whose shops were open also loitered on the verandas of their premises
The local councillor for Kinyogo Ward in Katuna Town Council, Mr Samuel Mbabazi, said key business players such as clearing agents, money changers, cargo truck drivers and their turn-men migrated to Mirama Hills in Ntungamo.
The Katuna town clerk, Mr Eric Sunday, on Tuesday said they lost huge revenues due to closure of the border.
“We have been earning about Shs1.2m a month from parking fees for long-distance trucks, getting local hotel tax, trading licence and property tax among other taxes during the normal business days but since the border was closed, we have lost all that,” Mr Sunday said.
He said the town council has been collecting Shs1.5m per month from the daily market at Akensiyoona where many customers hail from Rwanda but since Rwanda warned its citizens not to cross into Uganda, business in the market has dipped.
Mr Sunday said the council could lose up to Shs5m in taxes per month if Katuna border remains closed.
If the situation persists, he said, the council may petition the central government for supplementary funding because the local revenue collections have suffered a slump.
Mr Abdu Madaraka, a money changer at Katuna border, said he has lost about Shs3.6m since the closure of the border three weeks ago.
“If the situation remains like this we shall pack our bags and go to our villages,” Mr Madaraka said.
Mr Nelson Gumanoshaba, a Mobile Money dealer, said: “I used to make a profit of about Shs50,000 daily from my Mobile Money business. But the place is now deserted.”
The officer in-charge of customs at Katuna border post, Mr Emmanuel Bamanya, said between 300 and 400 long-distance cargo trucks would cross the border every day but now only about 5 buses and a few small cars cross because of the restrictions.
The chairman of Kabale Irish Potato Exporters to Rwanda, Mr Robert Mutabazi, said they have opted to hire stores in Katuna and Kabale to keep their potatoes.
“Serious losses have been made although individual traders do not easily want to speak out on losses and profits. But all of us have lost,” Mr Mutabazi said.


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