August 19, 2019

Congo Imposes Expensive Visa Charges Ahead Of Rwanda-Uganda Summit On Wednesday


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L-R: Presidents Felix Tshisekedi, Yoweri Museveni, João Lourenço and Paul Kagame during the previous quadripartite summit.

The leaders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo are due in Angola’s capital Luanda this Wednesday for the second quadripartite summit.

The first such summit was held on July 12, hosted by Angolan President João Lourenço. The four leaders agreed that the host and DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi would be the joint mediators of the Rwanda-Uganda conflict.

President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni accuse each other of fomenting trouble in each other’s country.

Since the Luanda summit, no other public engagement has taken place. Last week August 13, Angola’s foreign minister Manuel Domingos Augusto delivered sealed message to Kagame from his boss.

Angolan media have since reported the Luanda summit, that “instruments of understanding” between Kigali-Kampala will be signed. And already President Kagame is in Namibia for official visit, enroute to Angola.

However, Congo has also opened its own fight with Rwanda. Since Thursday last week, Rwandans are required to pay expensive visa fees to travel to Goma, directly opposite Rwanda’s Rubavu district.

More than 40,000 people use the two border crossings linking Goma-Rubavu daily. At least 11,000 Rwandans have jobs in Goma, in additional to traders.

Congo’s directorate of immigration is asking for $20 (Rwf 18,000) from Rwandans doing petit jobs in Goma but do not stay there. Professionals and big businesspeople are required to pay $300 (Rwf 276,200). Both are very high costs by Rwanda standards.

Congo says it is simply reciprociting work permits imposed by Rwanda on Congolese who work in Rwanda. It also says Rwanda already has visa requirement on Congolese students studying in Rubavu, and that it will soon also introduce student visas on Rwandans.

Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo have an agreement in place whereby people living in border regions have a special document they use to cross to either country. The agreement was facilitated by the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), which comprises the three nations.

There has been no high-level response from Kigali, which is rare for Rwanda, except comments by Governor of Western Province Munyantwari Alphonse who said there was no warning from Congo before the latest visa restrictions.

He told local media that they are yet to receive the full communication of what visas are required from Rwandans.

“After reviewing the nature of the visas, to determine if they were imposed on the right people, we will engage [the Congolese] as we always do,” said Munyentwari, but did not give timeline.

However, the new DRC visas do not apply to another major border point, the Rusizi-Bukavu border, down south. Thousands of Rwandans and Congolese use this entry spot.

As of today, for Rwandans, it is only the Tanzania border with no problem. Burundi to the south is not safe. They Rwandans are not allowed by their government to go to Uganda, and now DRC has came up.

At the same time, DR Congo is recovering from a devastating ebola epidemic which has killed more than 1,800 people and is a few kilometers from Rwanda.

Commentary on local radios in Rwanda, as there was no official response to new Congo visa charges, was that it seems Congo was angrily reacting to the “humiliation” of its interim health minister Pierre Kangudi on August 3 when he was made to wash his hands at border as he arrived in Rubavu to meet Rwanda’s counterpart Dr Diane Gashumba.

Media and observers will be keenly watching the Luanda quadripartite summit for movement on the new visa charges.

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181 Comments

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