News have been coming from various Burundian border posts that cargo trucks traveling through Rwanda are being blocked from entering the country, although Burundi officials have not released any official statement on the reason for the blockade. All Burundi-bound trucks transporting cargo from the Kenyan port of Mombasa have to transit through Uganda and then Rwanda. In response, the Rwandan government notified both Kenya and Uganda that Burundi-bound cargo trucks would be prevented entry into Rwanda. Burundi’s action goes against a decision taken by ministers of the East African Community—a regional bloc formed to facilitate economic relations between members—on March 25, which called upon all partner states to do as much as they can to allow the flow of goods between nations even as lockdown measures are put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Why It Matters
Despite national lockdowns undertaken by African governments, the continued flow of cargo has been generally agreed upon as essential. Even under quarantine, Africans would still need to be able to access food, medicine, and other necessities, which can only be accomplished if trade is allowed to continue. Few African countries are self-sufficient enough to produce all necessary goods their citizens need, so cargo deliveries, whether by road or air, are essential.
Burundi’s decision risks alienating it from other East African Community partners. The small country is still recovering from a bloody civil war that displaced about 400,000 Burundians internally and caused tens of thousands more to flee to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi will be especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet its blockade of cargo vehicles is likely to harm its people more than its neighbors.