News / Africa

DRC, Rwanda Ease Tensions Over Border Trade

FILE - Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) take positions near its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in eastern Congo, June 12, 2014.
FILE - Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) take positions near its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in eastern Congo, June 12, 2014.
Nick Long

Relations between the DRC and Rwanda took a turn for the worse on June 11 when Congolese and Rwandan troops clashed at the border near Goma. After several hours of firefights, the dead bodies of five Congolese soldiers were found by the Red Cross just inside Rwanda.

There had been hardly any open hostilities between Rwandan and DRC forces for several years before this incident. Although calm was quickly restored, trade between the two countries appeared to be threatened when a couple of weeks later the DRC immigration service in Goma announced it would begin imposing visa fees on all Rwandans doing business in Congo, and on students who commute there.

Democratic Republic of the CongoDemocratic Republic of the Congo
x
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tens of thousands of Rwandans regularly cross the border between the towns of Gisenyi and Goma, most of them transporting produce.

A number of these traders are disabled and would have difficulty finding work other than pedaling carts across the frontier.

Jean Baptiste Nyamulinda is one of these disabled traders. Speaking to VOA before the visa plan had been dropped, he said he had been told he would have to pay $50 for a three-month visa. He had not heard that disabled people would be exempt and was hoping God would help them.

Several other traders told VOA they would not be able to afford visas, which they had been told would be $50 for three months for informal traders, $30 a year for students and $250 a month for salaried people living and working in Goma.

However, the threat of trade visas now appears to have been lifted after some outside intervention.

A regional body, the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries, wrote to DRC authorities asking for clarification and pointing out that the visa plan was in breach of a regional agreement on free movement of goods and people.

Economic community official Joseph Lititiyo told VOA Thursday that the DRC's Foreign Ministry has clarified its position.

He said the DRC's response was to point out that other member states - namely Rwanda and Burundi - require Congolese citizens living in those countries to pay for a long stay visa, which is why the DRC has decided to apply the same measure.
 
Officials in Goma said this week that this fee does not apply to cross border traders, who visit Congo on a daily basis.
 
Lititiyo said the parties will come together to sort out concerns. He said the DRC government has asked the community to organize a meeting of officials from the three countries to clear up any misunderstandings about the DRC's visa plans.

This is only one of the border disputes between the DRC and Rwanda and by no means the most serious. But its successful resolution could signal a thaw in their relations overall.

Goma-based analyst Timo Mueller who works for the U.S.-based NGO, The Enough Project, says DRC-Rwanda relations reached a dangerously low point with the cross-border fighting in June.

"The military escalation led to a diplomatic quarrel between the two countries, with Rwanda threatening to withdraw from an earlier peace agreement, a regional agreement signed in February 2013. Luckily it hasn't done so, but I think we should take this threat seriously," said Mueller.

The biggest bilateral issue is that Kigali insists that so long as the Rwandan rebel group in eastern Congo, the FDLR, is not disarmed, it poses a direct threat to Rwanda.

A U.N. group of experts on the Congo reported last week that about 200 of the estimated 1,500 FDLR fighters have been demobilized since the start of this year.
 
The DRC government said it was giving the FDLR another six months to lay down their arms.  The concern is that  the demobilization will stall.
 
Resource-rich eastern Congo has long been prone to conflict, attracting regional and ethnic militias for years.  U.N. forces have been active in routing out these groups during the last year - in an effort to bring some stability to the region.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More