Concerns from Kigali and Kinshasa might not be addressed as quickly as desired but valuable progress is gradually being made by the two countries’ parliaments, through reciprocal visits and dialogues initiated in May this year.
This was said yesterday by Senator Jean-Damascène Bizimana, while briefing the media on the just-concluded visit to DR Congo by Rwandan lawmakers to Kinshasa.
In Kinshasa, the delegation headed by Senate President, Dr. Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo discussed matters of peace, security and national sovereignty as well as shared views on the seemingly derailed shared development projects.
The basis for the October 13-16 trip was also to examine matters pertaining to the implementation of the African Union peace framework signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 24. The framework aims at finding ways of bringing peace to eastern DRC. The DRC, according to the Addis accord, has the primary responsibility of pacifying its volatile east, particularly by talking to rebel groups fighting the government. Neighboring states, including Rwanda, are required to help by not getting involved to stir up trouble in the already wrecked region.
Among other things the Congolese Senate has agreed to set up a committee to look into matters pertaining to the welfare and possible homecoming of hundreds of Congolese refugees hosted by Rwanda, “a very positive development and crucial step forward” according to Sen. Bizimana.
It was also agreed that the neighbouring countries revive their routine meetings at border regions to help get rid of the harmful suspicions and falsehoods propagated by lack of a forum to discuss any issues.
Political divergences, poor coordination
During the Kinshasa session, it was agreed that both teams resume parliamentary diplomacy meetings – alternating in either countries – every six months.
The Rwandan delegation requested that the next meeting be held in Rubavu, where the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) headquarters are based, in December.
The meeting in Rubavu, it is hoped, will allow the lawmakers to better visualise and examine challenges and possible solutions to the two countries’ joint cross-border development projects including rejuvenating hydro power generation on Rusizi falls, and the Burundu-DR Congo-Rwanda road network.
Rwandan and Congolese Senators paid attention to, among others, three important but stalled CEPGL projects: the Banque de Développement des Etats des Grands Lacs (BDGL); the Institut de recherche agronomique et zootechnique (IRAZ); and the energy development arm of the bloc (CINELAC).
The implementation of mutual projects has stalled as there has been no momentum from the three countries, due to political divergences and poor coordination.
Most of the blame for the projects failure is currently put on President Joseph Kabila, the current CEPGL Chairperson, who has ‘failed’ to organise the habitual sessions of Heads of State that guide and direct project execution. Such meetings cannot happen if the sitting Chair does not organize them. Rwandan Senators requested their Congolese counterparts to help advocate for such a higher level meeting to be arranged.
However, what Sen. Bizimana calls another added advantage, is the fact that while in Kinshasa, Dr. Ntawukuliryayo met with President Kabila.
“When there are high-level meetings, like this, it is a sign that there is a good chance for resolving issues. It is usually a critical step towards finding solutions,” Sen. Bizimana said.
During the May visit, DRC senate president Leon Kengo wa Dondo agreed with his Rwandan counterpart, Dr. Ntawukuliryayo, to ensure constant dialogue on matters of mutual interest so as to spur parliamentary ties and help resolve regional conflicts.