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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid