The dented relations between Rwanda and neighbouring Uganda should not create pretext for people to engage in smuggling or any other cross-border crimes like illegal crossing, border communities in Nyagatare District have been warned.
This warning was sounded by the Governor of Eastern Province, Fred Mufulukye on a three-day tour aimed at senstising residents near borders against cross-border crime, a campaign that he started on Monday.
Mufulukye was accompanied by local leaders and security officials, and it targets all the sectors that share borders with Uganda.
The leading crimes in the area are smuggling and drug trafficking.
“A lot has done to reduce some of these crimes and it is evident from the reports we get but the smuggling problem persists. I get many reports showing some residents still involved in smuggling, and some being caught,” Mufulukye said on Monday.
Mufulukye said that most of the smugglers carry traditional weapons such as machetes, prepared to fight security forces should they be caught, which he said only escalates crime.
Such individuals are dangerous to the society, Governor pointed out, urging local leaders to be vigilant and report them since some live in their communities.
Nyagatare as one of six secondary cities in the country has so many opportunities that should be leveraged, saying that these should not be left untapped just because people want to earn quick money through smuggling.
He outlined different projects such as tarmac roads and model villages that are being built in rural sectors, which he said are affected once people resort to smuggling, because then government will have no money to allocate to such.
“Smuggling is too harmful for a country’s economy,” he reminded.
Threat to security
Assistant Commissioner of Police Emmanuel Hatari, the eastern Regional Police Commander said: “Smuggling is illegal, let alone the fact that it has a negative effect on the country’s economy, it is a big threat to security, we need your cooperation.”
He said that the same routes that smuggling use can be used to smuggle into the country guns and other weapons that could endanger the country’s security.
“Let us therefore work together to uproot this vice; together, we can eradicate smuggling,” he said.
Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have not been good, but whether agreement signed recently by heads of state of the two countries to normalize ties is to be implemented or not, residents should not confuse it to take it as a greenlight for smuggling.
“Rwanda is 100 percent in support of the implementation of the agreement; but does the deal support smuggling? We have fought smuggling since a long time ago, and we will continue that battle,” Mufulukye warned.
“People should not misunderstand the MoU and say, ‘things with the border are now good,’ and then start smuggling,” he added.
Vincent Gahutu, 72, a community leader in Tabagwe Village, Tabagwe Cell in Tabagwe Sector, said that they will try their best to fight smuggling and drug trafficking prevalent in his area, but he said that the fight is frustrated by mindset problems.
He said: “I live at the border, at the place known as ‘Ku Misave’. Ever since the MoU was announced, the people have been drunk, and that is how they probably still are. For them, it was like a license to cross into Uganda to drink.”
Gahutu said that the nature of the crossing does not help matters.
“There is no water dividing us or any other kind of limit, people cross like you cross a road; some get caught by police and are detained, but once released, their first destination is across the border,” he explained.
The other Nyagatare sectors along the Ugandan border are Musheri and Matimba.