In what many see as a tit-for-tat response to Rwanda’s border restrictions since an Ebola outbreak, the Democratic Republic of Congo has increased visa fees on Rwandans visiting the country.
The new visa costs come into effect this week, leaving many Rwandan analysts questioning whether Kinshasa is not attempting to get even, following Kigali’s decision to restrict the movement of people from eastern DRC due to the raging Ebola outbreak.
Reports say DRC’s Directorate of Immigration is currently asking for 20 dollars (Frw18,000) from Rwandans doing petite jobs in Goma but do not stay in the city.
Under the new visa regime, Rwandan professionals and big businesspersons are required to pay 300 dollars (Frw276,200).
By Rwandan standards, both costs are seen as prohibitively very high.
The Congolese are said to be simply responding to the decision by Rwanda to impose work permits on Congolese working and living in Rwanda.
Kinshasa says Rwanda already has visa requirements placed on Congolese students studying in Rubavu (South Kivu), and that it will soon also introduce similar measures on Rwandans.
Currently, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo have an agreement whereby people living in border regions have been given special documents they use when crossing to any of these countries.
The agreement was facilitated by the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), which comprises the three nations.
Political analysts say that as of Wednesday, for Rwandans only the Tanzania border is free of any problems for them.
Rwanda sees Burundi to the south as unsafe for Rwandans who are advised against traveling to neighbouring Uganda.
In a related development, Rwanda officials have tightened border control to deal with cross-border movement at the second largest entry point with the DRC, linking the city of Bukavu (South Kivu) and Rusizi on the Rwandan side, in a bid to prevent the spread of Ebola.
The move comes after the eastern DRC province of South Kivu’s provincial government on Tuesday confirmed its fourth case of Ebola.
More than 40 000 people use the two border crossings linking Goma-Rubavu daily.
At least 11 000 Rwandans have jobs in Goma, in addition to traders, according to official estimates.