M23 rebels cut off Kenya, Uganda trade routes to DRC

War-displaced people flee towards the city of Goma, eastern Republic of Congo, on November 15, 2022.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • The DRC government has also blocked goods transported through territories under the control of the rebels from reaching major towns in the country.


The M23 rebels have cut off all major supply routes for Ugandan and Kenyan goods to the city of Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has caused financial losses to the two countries.

This follows the capture of Rutshuru Town in eastern DRC by the rebels, cutting off the Ishasha border in Kanungu District.

The border was the only one still open after the M23 rebels captured the Bungana border town in eastern DRC in June and later took control of the Kitigoma and Busaza borders.

Trucks carrying goods from Uganda and Kenya are stuck at the Ishasha border. The drivers say they have been there for weeks.

The Kanungu Resident District Commissioner, Mr Ambrose Amanyire Mwesigye, said some of the truck drivers crossed into DRC but were told to return to Uganda by the Congolese authority.

The Congolese authorities said it was for their safety.

“Dozens of cargo trucks carrying goods from Uganda and other East African countries have been parked at Ishasha border post for two weeks because the drivers got information that the M23 rebels captured Kiwanja territory where they had to pass before arriving in Goma City,” Mr Mwesigye said.

Halted operations

The Kisoro deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Robert Tukamuhebwa, said Uganda has since halted operations of its immigration and customs offices adjacent to the captured border posts “because there was no legitimate government to guarantee the smooth running of cross-border trade.”

The DRC government has also blocked goods transported through territories under the control of the rebels from reaching major towns in the country.

Mr William Busuulwa, a leader of the truck drivers in Uganda, said some of their members are risking their lives entering DRC.

“Some Congolese business people, who are our clients, have connections along the affected routes. They hire the trucks and are able to reach Goma City,” Mr Busuulwa said.

Trade with DR Congo

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Uganda was exporting goods worth $580m annually.

Most of the goods exported to DRC went through Mpondwe, Bunagana, Goli, Ishasha and Kitigoma borders.

Since the renewal of fighting in eastern DRC, trade activities at three key borders have drastically reduced.

This has had a negative impact on Uganda’s export as the country struggles to recover from the economic challenges caused by the Covid-19-induced lockdown.

The chairperson of the clearing agents at Bunagana Border Post, Mr John Bosco Bwambale, said food and non-food items are the major products exported to the DRC through Bunagana, Kitagoma and Ishasha while minerals and agricultural produce are the main items imported from the country.

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