24 October 2012

Rwanda: DRC Suspends 24hr Border Operations

Photo: Radio Okapi/ Ph. John Bompengo
Trading (file photo): Most of the affected cross-border traders are those dealing in fresh agricultural products.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reopened the two border posts with Rwanda but imposed new restrictions regulating their services.

Usually, operations would go on for 24 hours to ease movement of people and goods, but they will cease at 6pm until further notice, according to the new directive.

The two border posts known as Petite Barriere and Grande Barriere (La Corniche) are normally used by thousands, mainly cross-border traders operating in both towns of Goma (eastern DRC) and Gisenyi in Rubavu District on the Rwandan side.

Congolese use services like banks in Gisenyi town while others operate businesses in the same town.

On the other hand, several Rwandans sell their goods in Goma.

Even though this new development is widely seen as a hindrance, local authorities say Rwanda is not affected by the abrupt readjustment in operating time.

Rubavu District Mayor, Sheikh Hassan Bahame, told The New Times yesterday that residents in his district have resolved to adjust to the time regulations that have been imposed by the DRC government.

"Of course it is very unfortunate but we are encouraging our people to try and do all their cross-border activities early so as to abide by the new regulations," he said in an interview.

Bahame dispelled fears that Rwandan nationals who were forced to spend the night across the border on Monday could have been held hostage or possibly tortured as has happened before.

"We have not received any torture reports so far and we are closely watching to see if anything comes up," he said.

When the DRC government abruptly shut their border services earlier than usual on Monday, many travellers got stranded but now business is back to normal.

Similar explanations were echoed by Oscar Nzeyimana, the Mayor of Rusizi though he expressed disappointment at DRC's decision to cut border operating hours, contravening provisions under the Economic Community for the Great Lakes Region (CEPGL).

CEPGL brings together Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.

"Logically, it is wrong to close the border without prior notification. We shall wait to see if it will probably be resolved at the provincial or national level," he said.

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