The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Business Picks Up On Rwanda-Congo Border

With the situation back to relative calm in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the influx of refugees to Rwanda has reduced and business is back to normal in the border town of Rubavu, traders say.

Rachel Nyirasafari, the district Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs, told The New Times Monday that the situation has greatly improved thereby stabilizing both the social and economic wellbeing of the local population.

"In comparison with the past few months, there is much improvement in terms of security and the social welfare of the residents," she said.

Unlike in the recent past, the two entry points at the western border town of Rubavu are no longer crowded with people fleeing from attacks in the DRC.

There are no more threats arising from the conflict in the troubled North Kivu province where M23 movement rebels, mainly composed of Congolese army deserters who took up arms in protest of alleged mistreatment - about four months ago.

Previously, there have been anti-Rwandan sentiments with mounting bigotry campaigns against Rwandans and other Kinyarwanda speaking communities in the Congo.

Nyirasafari disclosed that local leaders are in close consultation with the public encouraging them to strictly follow immigration rules while travelling across the border.

Laurent Gasana, the head of the business community in Gisenyi Sector, says smuggling of goods across the border is no longer rampant.

"Most of the traders own registered business and since the rate of smuggling is relatively low, they are not affected like in the recent past," Gasana said.

He pointed out that goods are sold cheaply in Goma and the conflict had prompted many people to disregard cross-border trade regulations but now it is no longer the case.

Amid intense bilateral diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the situation and restore peace in the troubled region, one cannot just ignore the fact that the conflict has left behind adverse effects.

Apart from Congolese troops moving across borders, the conflict has displaced 470,000 people from the mineral-rich region, with an estimated 70,000 crossing into Uganda and Rwanda.

Congolese soldiers have been routed and pushed back in recent months in a replay of a 2008 rebel advance which saw the insurgents, then known as the CNDP, encircle Goma and clash with the army and U.N. soldiers on the outskirts of the city.

There are widespread accusations against Congo's government (especially by human rights groups) of using authoritarian methods to clamp down on dissent.

The rebels, under the command of one Col. Sultani Makenga, also accuse the government of reneging on the March 23, 2009 peace deal that had resulted in the integration of the then CNDP rebels into the national army.

Frederic Ntawukuriryayo, Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Affairs, yesterday said on average, only 20 refuges now cross the border daily.

He says that throughout the conflict period, a total of 11,434 Congolese refugees have been relocated to Kigeme camp in the Southern Province while 2,490 others are still being hosted at Nkamira transit centre in Rubavu district.

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