New bridge and border post between Rwanda and Tanzania to improve travel

Rwanda and Eastern neighbor Tanzania are jointly progressing work on a new bridge over the Kagera River at Rusumo, which when completed in late 2014 will replace the old single lane bridge and allow larger cargo volumes to cross between the two member countries of the East African Community. The old bridge, currently used to cross the river which forms the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, is now over 40 years old and has weight restrictions which makes the use of today’s modern long distance trucks impossible, a problem the new bridge will finally resolve.

The new bridge and custom posts, are financed in a tripartite way, with the bulk of the money coming from Japan while Tanzania and Rwanda are paying for the balance on equal shares.

Both new facilities are expected to be ready by late 2014 and when formally inaugurated will operate 24 hours a day, instead of the present 16 hours which limit the movement of cargo and people across the common border.

The bridge is part of a major road corridor from the port of Dar es Salaam to Kigali and beyond, also serving Burundi and Eastern Congo. It could not be established why the two customs offices would not be unified to serve as a single customs clearance point, as is now emerging for instance between Kenya and Uganda, perhaps a signal that Tanzania is not quite ready yet to fully embrace the opportunities which are provided for under the various EAC protocols in addition to bilateral agreements.

In spite of the currently cooler relations between the two countries, triggered by suggestions from Tanzania last year that Rwanda ought to negotiate with the notorious killer militias holed up in the Eastern Congo, and upon the subsequent rejection by Kigali the expulsion of thousands of people from Western Tanzania into Rwanda for alleged immigration offenses, such key infrastructure projects appear to continue to roll out on schedule, offering a glimmer of hope that bilateral relations will eventually become warm and cordial again as they used to be. It is in particular the business community in Tanzania which is keen to improve trade and tourism links, mindful of the possibility to losing out to neighbors Kenya, which together with Uganda and Rwanda has formed a fast tracking alliance for several key projects which under the mainstream EAC have progressed too slowly if not faltered altogether, like the common tourist Visa and the unified customs clearance system, besides such mega projects as the standard gauge railway which is now under construction from Mombasa via Nairobi, through Uganda and on to Kigali.