The Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration is engaged in talks with Democratic Republic of Congo migration officials on the possibility of reverting a new directive requiring Rwandans travelling to Congo through Bukavu border point to pay visa fees.
Other than a laissez-passer which costs Rwf10,000, Rwandans will be required to have a visa which goes for $55 (Rwf37,400) for ordinary persons and $35 (Rwf23,800) for students.
The development, which came into force on April 21, saw a good number of Rwandans stranded at the border, especially students with some of them having to postpone their trip.
Ange Sebutege, the communications officer at the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration termed the move as a surprise.
“It was a surprise to see that they have begun charging visa fees for all Rwandans going to DRC. It goes against the CEPGL (Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries) agreement. Normally those who are required to process a visa are those going to reside or work in the country as residents but visas do not apply to visitors,” he said. CEPGL brings together Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi.
He said the way forward would be to categorise people crossing the border to determine the length and purpose of their stay to find out if they require a visa.
He said Congolese coming to Rwanda are not required to have visas.
“They should categorise the people crossing the border point and find out if it is people who are working or if they are only visitors,” he said.
Sebutege said that under the CEPGL agreement, there are people who are not required to have visas.
“It is the same for Rwanda, there are those we do not require to have a visa. In fact, there are people who are not even required to have passports, they only use border passes. Asking someone who doesn’t even use standard travel documents such as a passport to use a visa is not good,” he said.
So far the new move is being implemented at the Bukavu border point.
“It is surprising that it was only applied on one border point, yet we have four other border points with DRC that are still using normal procedures. We are yet to know the origin of the new move but as of now, we are engaging them in talks to see the way forward,” Sebutege said.
An official at the DRC embassy in Kigali declined to comment on the issue, saying details about the move are still scanty and that they were still waiting for an official brief from Kinshasa.