Correspondent|There’s been rising anticipation amongst residents at the Katuna border town, ahead of the planned meeting between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on February 21.
The two leaders are hoped to hit a major milestone in the ongoing efforts to heal the divide between the two countries.
Since February 27 last year, the Katuna border has remained closed, as Rwanda put a stop on the movement of goods from Uganda and also restricted the movement of its citizens to Uganda.
In August last year, Kagame and Museveni signed a memorandum of Understanding in Luanda, Angola and opened up talks to find a common ground on this impasse.
Recently, the two leaders met again in Angola where they resolved to meet again at Katuna/Gatuna border on February 21.
At the moment, the border is being prepared for this high level meeting.
Construction works in the no-man’s land are ongoing to ensure that that by meeting, the venue is up to the standard.
Nelson Nshangabasheija, the Katuna town council mayor says he and the Katuna residents wish for nothing else but the border to be reopened after the Friday meeting.
“We have had enough of this suffering. Katuna is no longer the busy town it used to be all that is left here are structures without business. We miss our brothers and sisters from Rwanda. This Friday meeting should at least be the best towards the restoration of our lost glory,” he said.
While supervising the preparations, Ndorwa West Member of Parliament, David Bahati who is also the State Minister for Planning said the meeting provides hope for residents who have struggled for long.
“Our people have been patient for long and we are thankful for the efforts that are currently going on. Our main prayer is that this problem gets the best solution as soon as possible,” said Bahati.
The minister also asked residents to follow the security guidelines set by the authorities towards and during that sensitive summit.
About a year since the border was closed, residents say they have registered untold losses.
Miria Akankwatsa, the chairperson of Katuna Women Cross-border Multipurpose Traders Cooperative says the border crisis has threatened the very existence of their association.
“We started this cooperative with an aim of helping each other in boosting development. When we were still in good relations with our neighbours, women in this group would deposit money almost every day and those who needed loans would find it easy to get them because we had enough savings,” she said.
But now, she says, those who have failed to clear their outstanding cooperative debts are many and thus the association is at a risk of collapsing anytime.
“Whenever we organize meetings for the group, some members do not turn up thinking that we shall arrest them because they failed to pay their debts. Surprisingly, those who fear coming were the most active members of the group. We are afraid this group could be collapsing soon,” she said.