Rubavu, Rwanda, 30 June, 2014: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week introduced a new Visa policy targeting Rwandans, which regional officials say affects more than 36,000 travelers from both Countries who cross the border daily.
The abrupt visa changes include three new categories; $30 per year will be charged on Rwandan students crossing the border to study in DRCongo, $50 on small traders every 3 months and $250 every Month for the working class.
Rwanda reacted with dismay to the changes. Kigali says the visa charges contravene agreements signed under the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) - a regional body that brings together Rwanda, DRC and Burundi.
It is the second time that the DRC Government has breached the CEPGL agreement. On April 21, it started overcharging VISA fees on Rwandans traveling through the Rusizi-Bukavu border post.
Rwanda says that other than the laissez-passer temporary document costing Rwf10, 000, its nationals had been required to have a visa costing $55 (Rwf37, 400) for ordinary persons and $35 (Rwf23, 800) for students.
Rwandans crossing to DRC claim they have also been asked to pay bribes up to $50 by Congolese border officials.
The Congolese government has defended the policy saying the visas are necessary to control whoever enters its borders. Senior immigration officials in DRC say whoever is implementing the visa policy with more charges such as bribes is doing so as individuals.
The regional body CEPGL has also intervened – warning DRC for breaching the agreement it has signed. The three neighbors signed the agreement in July last year after lengthy talks by all Foreign Affairs Ministers of member Countries. Following which all visa fees were scrapped.
In a statement issued last Month, the CEPGL Executive Secretary, Herman Tuyaga said that DRC did not inform the body before introducing the new visa fees.
CEPGL chief says that the document signed indicates that only passports, Lesser-Passez and identity cards should be used by Citizens and DRC’s new Visa policy is contrary to its mission of regional integration.
Rwanda and its larger neighbor have seen a surge in cross-border trade over the years, toping more than Rwf 25billion, which may be affected.
To read the full article, please visit: http://rnanews.com/politics/8786-dr-congo-declares-rwandans-unwanted-except-with-expensive-paid-visas
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Senior Reporter, KT Press