Starting this week close to 500 travelers were stranded at the two border posts that Rwanda shares with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after the DRC government abruptly shut down their border services earlier than usual.
Most of those stranded were long distance traders who use Rwanda as transit to the DRC as well as businessmen and women who operate across the border towns of the two countries.
Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC, grouped under the Economic Community for the Great Lakes Region (CEPGL), April 2010, agreed to increase border operation hours to ease movement of people and goods.
The Corniche border in Rubavu has been operational 24 hours while the Rusizi 1 border in Rusizi district closed at 10 p.m.
But, without official notification, the DRC Government shut down their services at 6 p.m., leaving the travelers stranded. The DRC communicated through its provincial authorities an issue handled at the national level.
Sources from the DRC Embassy in Kigali claimed that they were not aware of the changes.
The Directorate of Immigration and Emigration confirmed that there were passengers stranded.
Anaclet Kalibata, the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration told “The New Times” that the DRC Government should have officially communicated to the Rwanda Government on the impending changes, after all there is a diplomatic representation in both capitals. This would have given travelers ample time to adjust their schedules accordingly.
Traders who purchase goods from as far as Nairobi plan their schedules putting into consideration that the borders work for up to 24 hours.
By Tuesday evening, there were increasing fears that the Rwandans who are still held up on the Congolese side could be tortured or held hostage as it has previously happened.
Border Restrictions By DRC Authorities Is a Shortsighted Move
The unilateral move, which goes against the 2010 CEPGL agreement, signed between Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, is a step in the wrong direction. The agreement, which aimed to ease travel and trade between the three countries, proved to be extremely popular with traders and travelers alike.
The move – closing the border at 6p.m – has slowed trade as seen by the drastic fall of cargo vehicles crossing the border. Presently, slightly above 200 trucks cross each day, down from approximately 500 before the directive was made.
This decision is creating gridlock at the border and is delaying the essential movement of goods. Residents of Gisenyi and Goma, the two sister towns, were able to enjoy each other’s respective nightlife; but this will no longer be possible.
The restrictions, which the DRC authorities mistakenly think will increase security, will only ratchet up the suspicions and ill feelings between the two countries.
Kinshasa must come to the realisation that acting unilaterally, despite it being their right as a sovereign nation, will only damage relations. Unless diplomatic and multilateral solutions to this region’s challenges are accepted by the DRC, peace and prosperity will remain a distant dream.
Source: The New Times