Museveni Re-opens Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Market More Than Two Years After Closure

President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has re-opened the Mpondwe-Lhubiriha market in Mpondwe in Kasese district more than two years since it was closed following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Museveni also stopped COVID-19 testing at the border and encouraged the community members to get fully vaccinated to stop the re-occurrence of the disease. 

In March 2020, Museveni ordered the closure of all borders, markets, places of worship, and social gatherings as part of the COVID-19 preventive measure. Although the government lifted the COVID-19 restrictions nationwide, it restricted movements to and from DR. Congo, which affected Mpondwe-Lhubiriha market. Traders have been protesting the high cost of COVID-19 testing, which limited their Congolese counterparts from crossing into Uganda for business. 

COVID-19 testing has been costing between USD 300 and 200 per person. The traders also claimed that since Uganda had delayed reopening the market, the Congolese had established their own market across the border leaving them with very few customers. 

Museveni who commissioned the new Border Export Zone-BEZ and the one-stop border post -OSBP on Wednesday explained that the intention of closing markets was to stop crowding as part of the COVID-19 containment measures since the country didn’t have vaccines at the time. He, however, said that there are sufficient vaccines and people should be allowed to get back to their businesses as usual but be encouraged to get vaccinated. 

President Museveni also asked the president of the neighboring DR. Congo and leaders to remove Visa restrictions for Ugandans since it contravenes the East African community protocols. It followed complaints from traders that they were being charged for travel documents to DRC. He applauded the DRC president Félix Tshisekedi for allowing UPDF to enter the country to pursue the rebel Allied Democratic forces-ADF and reported that the Ugandan troops are making progress. 

The president also asked Ugandans to consolidate family wealth and avoid splitting property. He said that through the use of shares, family members are able to jointly use the available wealth like land to produce much more outputs and share profits accordingly.

Geraldine Ssali, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives said that Uganda targets to have 18 border export zones and so far, seven of them have been completed. She said the facilities will also have primary and secondary value-addition facilities to increase on product’s monetary value. 

The commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority-URA, John Musinguzi said that more than 3,500 trucks are cleared into DRC every month and in the last three years the value of these quantities has jumped from Shillings 1 trillion to more than Shillings 1. 5 trillion. However, he noted that there are still challenges of smuggling through the porous border points.

Muhindo Perrie, the LC I chairperson of Kabwiri 1 cell in Mpondwe-Luhbiriha applauded the government for reopening the market, saying the local community entirely depends on the business. He noted that many people had gotten out of business due to the lack of trading space and customers. 

The two facilities in Mpondwe were funded by the World Bank through the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project to enable cross-border trade by increasing the capacity for commerce and reducing the costs faced by traders, especially small-scale and women traders, at targeted locations in the borderlands.

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