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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid