Rwanda, DR Congo agree to reopen border amid Covid-19

Health minister Dr Daniel Ngamije (right) exchanges documents containing the meeting resolutions with DR Congo's deputy minister for internal Affairs Innocent Bokele Walaka. Courtesy

Senior Rwandan officials and their counterparts from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC), on Thursday, May 27 agreed on a set of mechanisms to revive cross-border trade despite the Covid-19 outbreak.

The senior officials met in Rubavu District at La Corniche One Stop Border Post a closed door meeting that lasted over five hours.

 

The Rwanda delegation was made of Health Minister Dr. Daniel Ngamije, Trade and Industry Minister Soraya Hakuziyaremenye and Local Government Minister Prof. Anastase Shyaka among other officials.

 

The DR Congo delegation comprised Innocent Bokele Walaka, the deputy minister for internal affairs, the deputy minister of health – Dr. Albert M’PETI Biyombo and the Governor of North Kivu Province, Carly Kasivita Nzanzu among others.

 

In their remarks, officials from both sides noted that the bilateral meeting was made possible thanks to the political will by heads of state of the two countries.

On the agenda, the senior officials discussed collaborations towards improving public health in the two countries.

The purpose of the meeting, according to officials, was to formulate proposals for high-level political commitments meant to guide the strengthening of cross-border cooperation in surveillance of Covid-19 pandemic and its implication for cross-border trade in compliance with the specific measures taken by either country.

The bilateral meeting was held after both countries closed their borders two months ago, as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.

The decision, while it was important for public health, significantly affected informal cross-border traders who are dominated by women from both countries.

The two delegations discussed the measures to be taken to ensure the continuity of commercial activities and the cross border movement of essential goods notably medicines, medical equipment and basic necessities.

Before the closure, about 55,000 people from both countries would cross through Petite Barrière Border while about 7,000 used Grande Barrière border on a daily basis, according to figures from the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration.

According to a statement signed by the two countries after the meeting, it was agreed to encourage traders to operate in cooperatives in order to reduce the number of people who would have to cross the border on daily basis.

This implies that respective cooperatives will designate emissaries to transact on their behalf across borders.

In addition, goods by informal cross border traders will continue to benefit from a simplified declaration and preferential tariff, read in part the statement.

Addressing journalists, Minister Ngamije noted that the bilateral meeting was crucial towards containing the spread of coronavirus while allowing for resumption of cross-border movement in compliance with measures taken by either country in a bid into curb the pandemic.

“Both countries agreed on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through sharing information on those who tested positive in a move to trace groups of suspected cases. We also discussed ways cross border trading should resume without disregarding measures to contain this pandemic,” he noted.

Ngamije added that the two delegations agreed to set up a technical team of focal persons from respective sectoral ministries to coordinate the implementation of the meeting resolutions.

Deputy Minister Bokele Walaka echoed sentiments by Ngamije noting that both countries will keep working hand in hand to ensure they protect interests of their respective citizen amidst Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are happy as we share same ideas with Rwanda towards fighting COVID-19, we are therefore set to put this pandemic to an end through sharing experience and best practices,” he said.

“Trucks’ drivers ought to be tested; we have tasked governors from either country to collaborate towards ensuring our citizens are safe,” added Walaka.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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