In the past week, from 7 to 13 October, 15 new confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases were reported from five health zones in two affected provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While it is encouraging to see another week of relatively low numbers of newly confirmed cases , these are occurring in a concentrated area where limited access and insecurity pose challenges for the response.

In such environments, risks of resurgence remain very high, as do the risks of re-dispersion of cases. For example, this past week, several people who were eventually confirmed as positive for EVD sought healthcare in health zones which are no longer experiencing ongoing transmission, such as Beni.

This information is from Eastern Congo but Uganda has not registered any confirmed Ebola Virus Disease among its citizen. However, it never stopped Rwandese from blocking Ugandans.

Rwanda Immigration Officers at Katuna border have blocked 61 Ugandans from crossing into Rwanda over “ebola” scare. The Pilgrims from Kasese diocese were heading to Kibeho for prayers.

 Kibeho is a small town in south Rwanda, which became known outside of that country because of reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ occurring between 1981 and 1989.

Joseph Muhindo team leader confirmed to Kigezi News that they were told to return back to Uganda because an epidemic was reported in their area of Rwenzori which borders Eastern Congo that battled Ebola for months killing thousands of people.

“We tried to convince the Rwandese authorities that Uganda was safe of ebola but heard non of our pleas. We returned back to Uganda and heading to Central Uganda to continue prayer”.

The 61 Ugandans had booked service providers for the next three days and were in tears after losing the money they paid in advance. We have taken time saving for this trip but its sad we cant be allowed in Rwanda.

Mid 2019,  Rwandan troops blocked about 200 of their citizens from crossing into Uganda to attend a Christian pilgrimage, a Ugandan government official said on Monday, amid a spat between the neighbours.

The Rwandans were seeking to attend the annual Martyrs Day commemoration in Uganda but were turned back, the official said.

“More than 200 Rwandans who were coming to attend Martyrs Day were stopped by the military from crossing to Uganda and sent back,” Janinah Busingye, an official at Katuna, the border town with Rwanda, told AFP at the time.

“This is how bad the situation has become between Uganda and Rwanda. People’s right to worship is now being interfered with.”

She said pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi had been using the same crossing to enter Uganda via Rwanda, and had not encountered any problems.

One 66-year-old pilgrim, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP she travelled in a large group to the border but was denied entry.

“We were told that we cannot cross into Uganda for the sake of our security,” she told AFP.

Martyrs Day on June 3 commemorates the execution of 45 converts to Christianity in the 1880s.

Their death was ordered by the then king of Buganda, which is now part of Uganda.

They included 22 of his pages, who had converted to Catholicism and were burned alive on June 3 1886. They were beatified by the Holy See in 1920 and canonised in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

Several hundred Rwandans typically used to travel to Uganda for the event, tourism figures show but this has changed.

But Rwanda closed its border with Uganda in February, freezing a key regional trade route, as hostilities between President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni boiled over.

Rwandan traders have been prevented by force from crossing the border into Uganda, where many used to work during the day.

In late May, Ugandan police accused Rwandan soldiers of entering the country and killing two men but Rwanda said the incident happened on its soil.

Recently, officials of Uganda and Rwanda met in the capital Kigali to discuss the tensions but after one month nothing seem to be moving.

Shortly after meeting in Luanda last week, both leaders travelled to Japan for the seventh edition of the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (Ticad).

Media censorship

Kigali and Kampala have also held talks over the back and forth censorship of online media websites that each country deems to be spreading “propaganda” and inciting insecurity.

The Uganda Communication Centre on August 16 ordered internet providers to block Rwanda’s only daily newspaper, The New Times, as well as online tabloid Igihe, on grounds of national security.

The Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Authority countered by blocking a host of Ugandan sites including New Vision, Daily Monitor, The Observer, Chimp Reports and The Independent.

Last week, both regulators discussed resolving the impasse and agreed to debate how to publish content that follows “proper media ethics” in the interest of regional integration.

“We are in direct talks with UCC and we are in agreement of what needs to be done and we are progressing well. However, there are certain things that we agreed that we both need to do to make sure that we avoid such problems in the future and that is what is taking a bit longer,” Patrick Nyirishema, Director General of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) told The EastAfrican.

UCC spokesperson Ibrahim Bbosa said that officials had met with some online editors of Ugandan news outlets on the potential risk that could come out of careless reporting.

“Some online publishers have an interest in trying to increase their online following and others assume they were being more patriotic by carelessly reporting about some things, but we realised that through that, dangers are being created,” said Mr Bbosa.

Meanwhile, businesses continue to count losses as the closure of the common border enters the seventh month.

Some Ugandan companies with operations in Rwanda have reported losses and some have laid off workers.

Joseph Kalema, a trader in silverfish, says that every month they used to import fish worth Ush5 billion ($1.3million) for sale in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo but the business has almost died.

“The border closure has caused us huge losses. Some of us had bank loans, now we don’t know where this is headed but they really ruined our trade,” he said.

He said the Congolese fish buyers have now resorted to picking the silverfish themselves from Kiyindi on the shores of Lake Victoria, cutting out all those who used to benefit along the trade chain.

“I don’t know how we will recover, even when things normalise,” he said.

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