Uganda Airlines will resume direct flights to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, for the first time since its relaunch in 2019.
The development comes after several on-again, off-again meetings between officials from the two countries.
Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo made the announcement at the conclusion of the 11th Session of the Rwanda-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) in Kigali on Friday.
According to Mr Odongo, the move aims to address transportation challenges faced by both countries business communities, boost trade, improve connectivity, and contribute to the strengthening of people-to-people exchanges.
“Uganda welcomes Rwandan authorities’ acceptance of our national carrier Uganda Airlines’ designation, which will result in the commencement of direct flights from their hub in Entebbe to Kigali,” he said in a statement.
Uganda Airlines resumed commercial flights in 2019, primarily to regional destinations, but efforts to secure landing rights in Kigali have been futile, owing to a diplomatic schism.
Currently, the airline serves Nairobi, Kinshasa, Juba, Mombasa, Dar es Salam, Mogadishu, Kilimanjaro, and Bujumbura
Since its revamp, officials from both countries have been in talks to ensure that the airline is granted permission to operate direct flights from its Entebbe hub to Kigali.
However, the two countries were embroiled in a diplomatic dispute, which caused Kigali to close its common border with Uganda for more than two years.
Rwanda accused Uganda of backing forces seeking to destabilise the Kigali government and of mistreating its citizens in Kampala.
Uganda, for its part, accused Kigali of espionage and infiltration of its security forces.
Opened common border
Following several engagements under the Rwanda-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission, some concessions were made, and the common border was opened last year by Kigali.
Allowing Uganda Airlines to fly to Kigali signals an expansion of bilateral relations.
Kigali’s national carrier, RwandAir, already has direct flights to Entebbe.
Trade between the two countries has declined significantly, though it is currently increasing.
“We are seeing a rebound in trade exchanges between the two countries.” However, trade volumes have not yet reached the desired levels, according to Odongo.