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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid