By Risdel Kasasira – The East African
Uganda has closed its border with the DR Congo at Bunagana post following reports that the M23 rebels were taxing trucks from the former.
Sources told Kampala’s Daily Monitor newspaper Tuesday that trucks heading to DR Congo were stopped by the Ugandan military to deny M23 rebels revenue collection.
The Army spokesperson, Col Felix Kulayigye ,confirmed the incident, saying the border was closed on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni, who is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka.
“It’s true we have temporarily closed the border at the request of the Kinshasa government because the M23 rebels had started collecting money from the trucks carrying goods from Uganda to DR Congo,” he said.
This abrupt closure will see Uganda lose hundreds of millions of dollars through trade with eastern DR Congo.
Many Ugandan traders export goods like sugar, soap, cooking oil and fresh food to DR Congo through the Bunagana post.
The closure followed a Monday meeting between Uganda’s State minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem and a Congolese delegation in Kampala.
Mr Oryem couldn’t answer the Monitor’s repeated calls, but Col. Kulayigye said he was not sure when the border would be reopened.
“I can’t guess, but it’s a short term measure,” he said.
With the closure of the border, the M23 rebels controlling the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and other areas in eastern DR Congo since April will be denied revenue which they were using to fund their activities.
A report by the UN group of experts has accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels, allegations that sparked angry reactions from Kampala and Kigali.
The M23 movement says they rebelled because the government failed to comply with a peace agreement signed in March 2009.
A new report to be released on Monday next week by World Wildlife Fund for Nature says that 50 per cent of timber imports from DR Congo to Uganda through Bunagana and other posts are underpaid in taxes.