The Democratic Republic of Congo government has announced that the Rwanda- DRC border in Rubavu, has been re-opened for 24 hours business, in a move that could help boost bilateral trade according to The East African.
The decision was taken by DRC government “to thank” Congolese people from North Kivu province (borders Rwanda) who supported their national team, Leopards during the recent concluded African Nations Championship in Rwanda (Chan). Julien Paluku, the governor of North Kivu province was quoted by a Radio Okapi (UN Radio) as saying: “The President of the Republic (DRC) has announced that with the arrival of the African Nations Championship in Rwanda, Goma, that the border is re-opening for 24-hour business.”
However some media reports say the move to increase the border’s hours of operation is beyond the Chan tournament celebrations, “The government aims to consolidate bilateral relations between Rwanda and DR Congo.” During Chan 2016 borders were open more hours to allow Congolese fans to cross over to cheer their national team. The decision to reduce Rubavu–Goma border operations to 12 hours per day was taken by Congolese authorities during the war between M23 rebels and government forces in 2013.
Between 24-25 February 2016, the DRC hosted the first Great Lakes private sector investment conference. Delegates discussed opportunities and ways to attract investment in priority sectors such as mining, finance, telecom, agriculture, energy, CT and Tourism.
Rwanda was represented by the Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi and according to organisers, 25 regional investment opportunities were presented to participants. The conflict in Eastern DRC affected Rwanda’s economy, but according to the Central Bank of Rwanda, the situation is now better. By the second quarter of 2015, exports especially food and beverages exported to DRC increased by 28.9% in value and by 30.9% in volume. Governor Paluku was quoted as saying that President Joseph Kabila thought it was now time for both countries to open borders, stop the mistrust in both countries and show the world that two neighbouring countries can work together to boost development in the Great Lakes region.
The rebels seized the eastern Congo town in 2012 and left following intervention and pressure from International Conference of Great Lakes leaders in peace talks. Normalisation of relations between DRC and Rwanda has remained difficult and fraught with recriminations and accusations from both sides for the past 20 years. This has unfortunately spilt over into how the countries deal with each other in terms of trade with companies such as Bralirwa (BLR RW Equity; REDUCE), bearing the brunt of the frosty links. It is hoped that the above move to increase the number of hours that one of the main border posts between the countries operates, is the first move in a thawing of relationships which could lead to greater interaction and profitable trade between the DRC and Rwanda.