Uganda to help build roads inside Congo, citing trade goals

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s government said Tuesday it would help finance projects to surface over 200 kilometers (124 miles) of road inside neighboring Congo as part of plans to boost trade between the countries.

Uganda will contribute about 20% of the project value while the rest will be met by Congo’s government in an envisaged public-private partnership, Ugandan Works and Transport Minister Gen. Katumba Wamala told The Associated Press.

Such an arrangement is unheard of in a region where governments struggle to expand road networks within their borders. Despite its vast size and wealth of natural resources, Congo remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Eastern Congo is particularly plagued by rebel violence.

“There is always a first time for everything,” Wamala said. “This is a joint project between the two countries and there is a very good reason for that.”

The office of the Ugandan government spokesman in a statement said a meeting of Cabinet had authorized the surfacing or upgrading of the road from the border to Congo’s town of Beni as well as the road from the border post of Bunagana to the city of Goma.

The projects will boost investment and improve security in eastern Congo, the statement said.

Uganda’s decision to cooperate with Congo comes amid a standoff with neighboring Rwanda, once a major export destination for grains and other produce.

Rwanda’s government closed a busy border crossing with Uganda in February 2019 in what Uganda describes as a trade embargo. Rwanda’s government ordered its citizens not to travel to Uganda, asserting that Rwandan citizens were not safe across the border.

Rwandan authorities also accused Uganda’s government of backing rebels opposed to President Paul Kagame. Ugandan officials in turn accused Rwandan state agents of operating unlawfully in Uganda, including in alleged abductions of citizens wanted back home.

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