Crossing over into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for business, seems to have become risky business for most Rwandans who instead get much more than they had bargained for – torture and arbitrary arrests.
A situation that might further strain relations between Kinshasa and Kigali. Coming against a back-ground of simmering tensions between the two capitals; over renewed fighting between Congolese troops and members of the National Council for the Defense of the People led by General Laurent Nkunda.
Rwandans crossing over to the neighbouring Congolese towns, of Bukavu and Goma have complained about the mistreatment they are subjected to by Congolese soldiers whenever they cross these borders.
They say they are tortured on allegations of espionage. Rubavu Immigration figures confirmed that 12 Rwandans were by last week still incarcerated in various Congolese detention centres.
But they could be more-yet with little hope of being released soon-as Congolese authorities keep snubbing meetings with Rwanda’s authorities-aimed at addressing the issue.
Those who escape tell tales of serious bashing.
The latest reported victim is a man from the Rusizi district, in western Rwanda, Jean Claude Mugwaneza, who was reportedly given 200 strokes of the cane at a certain prison centre in Bukavu, The New Times reported early October.
He had no idea what made his captors consider him a spy for General Nkunda.
He is still admitted at Gihundwe hospital where he is recovering from back-ache and other injuries sustained during the torture as he was kicked in the head, stomach and limbs – last week he was vomiting blood and could hardly sit properly.
Another victim, Valence Bigirimana is said to have secured his freedom after paying a ransom of $500!
Cases of torture on baseless claims and extortion are an embarrassment for the DRC government whose nationals roam freely in Rwanda.
Mugwaneza’s case is just one of those that have come to the limelight exposing the Congolese agenda of shifting blame for their volatile security situation to other people.
Rwanda’s western Province governor, Penelope Kantarama, last week expressed her disappointment in her north Kivu counterpart, Julien Paluku for being reluctant to solve the issue.
She said north Kivu leaders led by Paluku have snubbed several meetings with them aimed at addressing the issue.
How then will they (Paluku and others) underlying concerns being highlighted without meeting? Not meeting undermines efforts to find a lasting solution to problems which are only fuelled by mere suspicion.
The indifference or inaction of the person who should have known better (Paluku) is what has made evil to triumph- to borrow words of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.
This could be interpreted to mean that the mistreatment of Rwandese is sanctioned by the DRC authorities.
The DRC government owes Rwanda an apology for abuses carried out by her security forces against Rwandans.
Ever since the news of abuse came to the lime-light, they have not come out to shed light on the matter.
The mistreatment has angered many Rwandans-who see Congolese nationals roaming freely in border towns like Gisenyi, Kamembe, Kigali City and almost in every town in Rwanda.
The Kigali government has not taken exception even when the DRC is harbouring genocide criminals who carried out the worst atrocities, here in Rwanda.
But this latest action across the borders is the final straw for some Rwandans --according to my independent survey.
The DRC government should call its soldiers to order and reciprocate the kind of hospitality Rwandans offer to Congolese.
Why should they mistreat innocent Rwandans going to their country for business? Congolese soldiers are seeking to create hostility between citizens of both countries yet they have enjoyed a peaceful co-existence.
In an African setting, if a neighbour’s fowl strays to your home; you have the duty to ensure its security.
What kind of reputation are the Congolese soldiers building then?
Torturing innocent civilians even in a war situation falls in the ambit of war crimes. Instead of concentrating on pacifying in their country, they are busy terrorising Rwandans.
To add salt to the injury under their watch, many Congolese have smuggled reasonable amounts of drugs to Gisenyi town-thus exposing Rwanda to increased use of drugs.
Authorities in Gisenyi are currently battling with the increasing crime -which is blamed on drugs-purportedly smuggled from Goma.
For other Rwandans who wish to cross to Bukavu or Goma, please heed the advice of local leaders and immigration officials. Watch out, you may be the next victim.
Do not use porous borders to cross over - use official borders so that the government can follow up just in case you fall in wrong hands- as the DRC seems to be a death trap.