Over 20 lawmakers from the three-member regional grouping of the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), are meeting in Rubavu today to try to revive the bloc’s development initiatives.
The meeting follows the DR Congo-Rwanda parliamentary diplomacy session held in Kinshasa, in October, where Rwandan lawmakers raised concerns over stalled development projects.
Sen. Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the chairperson of the Senatorial standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, who heads the Rwandan team told this paper yesterday, that a delegation of eight Congolese Senators and MPs were already in the country, while five Burundian lawmakers were expected yesterday evening.
The Rwandan delegation of 10 comprises five MPs and Senators. Established in September 1976, the CEPGL comprises DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
Sen. Bizimana said they plan to re-examine the CEPGL’s main areas of cooperation which include; Peace, security and good governance; energy, infrastructure and communications; economic development; and agriculture and food security; among others.
“We will explore the status of joint projects, the problems or challenges encountered with regard to implementation and hopefully come out with a roadmap for our three countries,” Bizimana said.
The Senator is optimistic that the new momentum will boost cooperation in the seemingly redundant regional bloc.
After the October 13-16 Kinshasa meeting, Bizimana was upbeat about the tone set by the “valuable progress” which he said was at that time being gradually made by the two countries’ parliaments, through visits and dialogues initiated in May this year.
In Kinshasa, Rwandan and Congolese lawmakers discussed peace, security and national sovereignty as well as views on the seemingly derailed development projects.
The meeting in Rubavu, it is hoped, will allow the lawmakers to openly discuss challenges as well as consider the possible solutions to the countries’ joint cross-border development projects, including rejuvenating hydro-power generation on Rusizi falls, and the Burundu-DR Congo-Rwanda road network.
Among others, they are likely to pay attention to three important projects: The Banque de Développement des Etats des Grands Lacs (joint bank); the Institute de Recherche Agronomique et Zootechnique (joint research body); and the energy development arm of the bloc.
The implementation of mutual projects has stalled mainly due to political instabilities.
Late last year, a 14-page report by the Senate’s standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security indicated that lack of sufficient funding threatened to derail operations of the regional grouping’s secretariat.
Up to 2011, outstanding amounts owed to the secretariat amounted to Euro 3.18 million with the DR Congo topping the arrears list with Euro 1.4m, Burundi second with Euro 1.3m, and Rwanda with Euro 0.48m.
At the time of the report’s presentation, however, the ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that Rwanda had cleared its debt (Euro 0.48m).
While in Kigali, in March 2011, the heads of Parliament from the CEPGL countries urged their governments to form a joint military force to curb insurgencies in the region.