By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame closed Rwanda’s common border with Uganda on February 27, 2019. He thereafter ordered Rwandans not to travel to Uganda. Business people from both countries lost fortunes. But by far, it is the Rwandan consumers that have suffered the most from the border closure. As The East African reported on March 10, 2019:
”The cost of a kilo of Ugandan supplied silverfish had shoot up to Rwf2,400 from Rwf1,600. Spices increased to Rwf1,600 from Rwf1,000 a kilo as others were completely out of stock at Kigali’s largest wholesale and retail markets. The cost of a kilogramme of fruits like mangoes and oranges tripled. A kilo of mangoes currently sells at Rwf1,000 from Rwf300. Other Ugandan sourced commodities such as cooking oil and household items have seen their prices increase by 15 to 20 per cent. Rwanda also depends on Uganda to import a number of manufactured goods, and also serves as a gateway for cargo to and from the port of Mombasa in Kenya…Supplies from Tanzania, which they say are relatively costly to import, had not yet arrived in enough quantities to substitute and stabilise prices.”
The only winner from Kagame’s closure of the border was Kagame himself in his capacity as Chairman of the ruling party, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and its US$500 million business empire, Crystal Ventures Ltd (CVL).
While the border was closed, CVL was making a fortune at the Gatuna post
The story of One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at the Gatuna Border reveals Kagame’s corruption and incompetence. As the 2017 Audit General’s Reportindicated, construction of the Gatuna OSBP was supposed to be completed by March 2016. This failed to happen and the contract was terminated in July 2017. At that point, RWF3,111,035,492 or US$3 million had already been paid to the failed contractor. Kagame then handed over Gatuna OSBP to NPD Contraco, paying the company RWF12,712,283,758 or US$14 million. Here is how the Auditor General explained this transaction:
”Due to the delays in completion of works, the total cost of the project has increased by 249% from Frw 6,345,986,395 to Frw 15,823,319,250 after a new contract of Frw 12,712,283,758 was signed with NPD Contraco to complete the works.”
NPD Ltd is, of course, a CVL subsidiary which describes itself as ”Rwanda’s premier civil engineering and Construction Company delivering practical solutions to diverse clients.” In other words, Kagame the president of Rwanda hires his own CVL to do perform government work. This is a blatant form of corruption.
Interestingly, NPD Ltd was hardly effective at the Gatuna OSBP. The Auditor General states that NPD Ltd had not yet begun construction by April 2018, despite the fact that it was awarded the contract in October 2017. In fact, NPD Ltd was supposed to have completed and handed over the Gatuna OSBP by August 16, 2018. NPD Ltd finally managed to complete the project on June 10, 2019.
Evidently, while everyone else suffered immensely from the border closure disaster, Kagame and Crystal Ventures Ltd were laughing all the way to the bank. Kagame is king of cronyism.